Background: Mutations in the DNA damage response (DDR) factors, breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and BRCA2, sensitize tumor cells to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. The ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase is a key DDR protein whose heterozygous germline mutation is a moderate-risk factor for developing breast cancer. In this study, we examined whether ATM inactivation in breast cancer cell lines confers sensitivity to PARP inhibitors.
Methods: Wild-type BRCA1/2 breast cancer cells (i.e., MCF-7 and ZR-75-1 lines) were genetically manipulated to downregulate ATM expression then assayed for cytostaticity/cytotoxicity upon treatment with PARP inhibitors, olaparib and iniparib.
Results: When ATM-depleted cells and their relative controls were treated with olaparib (a competitive PARP-1/2 inhibitor) and iniparib (a molecule originally described as a covalent PARP-1 inhibitor) a different response to the two compounds was observed. ATM-depletion sensitized both MCF-7 and ZR-75-1 cells to olaparib-treatment, as assessed by short and long survival assays and cell cycle profiles. In contrast, iniparib induced only a mild, ATM-dependent cytostatic effect in MCF-7 cells whereas ZR-75-1 cells were sensitive to this drug, independently of ATM inactivation. These latest results might be explained by recent observations indicating that iniparib acts with mechanisms other than PARP inhibition.
Conclusions: These data indicate that ATM-depletion can sensitize breast cancer cells to PARP inhibition, suggesting a potential in the treatment of breast cancers low in ATM protein expression/activity, such as those arising in mutant ATM heterozygous carriers.