Introduction: Women with HER2(+) or triple negative/basal-like (TN/BL) breast cancers succumb to their cancer rapidly due, in part to acquired Herceptin resistance and lack of TN/BL-targeted therapies. BRCA1-IRIS is a recently discovered, 1399 residue, BRCA1 locus alternative product, which while sharing 1365 residues with the full-length product of this tumor suppressor gene, BRCA1/p220, it has oncoprotein-like properties. Here, we examine whether BRCA1-IRIS is a valuable treatment target for HER2(+) and/or TN/BL tumors.
Methodology/principal findings: Immunohistochemical staining of large cohort of human breast tumor samples using new monoclonal anti-BRCA1-IRIS antibody, followed by correlation of BRCA1-IRIS expression with that of AKT1, AKT2, p-AKT, survivin and BRCA1/p220, tumor status and age at diagnosis. Generation of subcutaneous tumors in SCID mice using human mammary epithelial (HME) cells overexpressing TERT/LT/BRCA1-IRIS, followed by comparing AKT, survivin, and BRCA1/p220 expression, tumor status and aggressiveness in these tumors to that in tumors developed using TERT/LT/Ras(V12)-overexpressing HME cells. Induction of primary and invasive rat mammary tumors using the carcinogen N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (NMU), followed by analysis of rat BRCA1-IRIS and ERα mRNA levels in these tumors. High BRCA1-IRIS expression was detected in the majority of human breast tumors analyzed, which was positively correlated with that of AKT1-, AKT2-, p-AKT-, survivin, but negatively with BRCA1/p220 expression. BRCA1-IRIS-positivity induced high-grade, early onset and metastatic HER2(+) or TN/BL tumors. TERT/LT/BRCA1-IRIS overexpressing HME cells formed invasive subcutaneous tumors that express high AKT1, AKT2, p-AKT and vimentin, but no CK19, p63 or BRCA1/p220. NMU-induced primary and invasive rat breast cancers expressed high levels of rat BRCA1-IRIS mRNA but low levels of rat ERα mRNA.
Conclusion/significance: BRCA1-IRIS overexpression triggers aggressive breast tumor formation, especially in patients with HER2(+) or TN/BL subtypes. We propose that BRCA1-IRIS inhibition may be pursued as a novel therapeutic option to treat these aggressive breast tumor subtypes.