Tumor-initiating cells and FZD8 play a major role in drug resistance in triple-negative breast cancer

Mol Cancer Ther. 2013 Apr;12(4):491-8. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-1090. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) studies have shown that neoadjuvant chemotherapy before surgery was effective in the minority of women, whereas the majority who had residual tumor had a relatively poor outcome. To identify the mechanism by which residual cancer cells survive chemotherapy, we initially conducted gene expression profiling using the CRL2335 TNBC cell line derived from a squamous breast carcinoma before and after treatment with cisplatin plus TRAIL. We found a significant increase in the expression of FZD8, one of Wnt receptors, and its downstream targets LEF1 and TCF in residual CRL2335 tumor cells after treatment with cisplatin plus TRAIL. Increased FZD8 levels were further confirmed in other TNBC cell lines. Inhibition of FZD8 by siRNA in CRL2335 cells in the presence of cisplatin plus TRAIL reduced β-catenin and survivin levels and increased apoptosis compared with scrambled siRNA-treated cells. In vivo data show that cisplatin plus TRAIL treatment significantly reduces tumor volume in NOD/SCID mice. However, we found that cisplatin plus TRAIL treatment predominantly eliminated non-tumor-initiating cells, as shown by whole-body fluorescent imaging of mice injected with mammosphere-forming CRL2335 cells stably transfected with DsRed. This led to TIC enrichment in residual tumors, as confirmed by immunostaining for TIC markers. Moreover, an increase in FZD8 expression was observed in residual tumors treated with cisplatin and TRAIL. Taken together, our findings suggest that FZD8-mediated Wnt signaling may play a major role in mediating resistance to chemotherapy, making it a potential target to enhance chemotherapeutic efficacy in patients with TNBCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins / genetics
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics*
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Survivin
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / pharmacology
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • Fzd8 protein, human
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Survivin
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • beta Catenin
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Cisplatin