Inhibition of c-Src blocks oestrogen-induced apoptosis and restores oestrogen-stimulated growth in long-term oestrogen-deprived breast cancer cells

Eur J Cancer. 2014 Jan;50(2):457-68. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2013.10.001. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


Purpose: Our publications demonstrate that physiological concentrations of oestrogen (E2) induce endoplasmic reticulum and oxidative stress which finally result in apoptosis in E2-deprived breast cancer cells, MCF-7:5C. c-Src is involved in the process of E2-induced stress. To mimic the clinical administration of c-Src inhibitors, we treated cells with either E2, a c-Src inhibitor PP2, or the combination for 8 weeks to further explore the apoptotic potential of the c-Src inhibitor and E2 on MCF-7:5C cells.

Methods: Protein levels of receptors and signalling pathways were examined by immunoblotting. Expression of mRNA was detected through real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Cell cycles were analysed by flow cytometry.

Results: Long-term treatment with PP2 alone or E2 alone decreased cell growth. In contrast, a combination of PP2 and E2 blocked apoptosis and the resulting cell line (MCF-7:PF) was unique, as they grew vigorously in culture with physiological levels of E2, which could be blocked by the pure antioestrogen ICI182,780. One major change was that PP2 collaborated with E2 to increase the level of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor beta (IGF-1Rβ). Blockade of IGF-1Rβ completely abolished E2-stimulated growth in MCF-7:PF cells. Furthermore, combination treatment up-regulated transcription factors, Twist1 and Snail, and repressed E-cadherin expression which made MCF-7:PF cells display a characteristic phenotype of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT).

Conclusions: These data illustrate the role of the c-Src inhibitor to block E2-induced apoptosis and enhance E2-stimulated growth. Caution must be exercised when considering c-Src inhibitors in clinical trials following the development of acquired resistance to aromatase inhibitors, especially in the presence of the patient's own oestrogen.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Breast cancer; Epithelial–mesenchymal transition; Oestrogen; c-Src.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Estradiol / analogs & derivatives
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Fulvestrant
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / genetics
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / genetics
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Twist-Related Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Tyrphostins / pharmacology
  • src-Family Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • src-Family Kinases / metabolism*


  • AG 1879
  • Cadherins
  • Estrogens
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Pyrimidines
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • TWIST1 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • Twist-Related Protein 1
  • Tyrphostins
  • tyrphostin AG 1024
  • Fulvestrant
  • Estradiol
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1
  • src-Family Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases