Galloflavin (GF), a recently identified lactate dehydrogenase inhibitor, hinders the proliferation of cancer cells by blocking glycolysis and ATP production. The aim of the present experiments was to study the effect of this compound on breast cancer cell lines reproducing different pathological subtypes of this tumor: MCF-7 (the well differentiated form), MDA-MB-231 (the aggressive triple negative tumor) and MCF-Tam (a sub-line of MCF-7 with acquired tamoxifen resistance). We observed marked differences in the energetic metabolism of these cell lines. Compared to MCF-7 cells, both MDA-MB-231 and MCF-Tam cells exhibited higher LDH levels and glucose uptake and showed lower capacity of oxygen consumption. In spite of these differences, GF exerted similar growth inhibitory effects. This result was explained by the finding of a constitutively activated stress response in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-Tam cells, which reproduce the poor prognosis tumor forms. As a further proof, different signaling pathways were found to be involved in the antiproliferative action of GF. In MCF-7 cells we observed a down regulation of the ERα-mediated signaling needed for cell survival. On the contrary, in MCF-Tam and MDA-MB-231 cells growth inhibition appeared to be contributed by an oxidative stress condition. The prevalent mechanism of cell death was found to be apoptosis induction. Because of the clinical relevance of breast cancer forms having the triple negative and/or chemoresistant phenotype, our results showing comparable effects of GF even on aggressively growing cells encourage further studies to verify the potential of this compound in improving the chemotherapy of breast cancer.
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