The majority of triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) are basal-like breast cancers. However there is no reported study on anti-tumor effects of sunitinib in xenografts of basal-like TNBC (MDA-MB-468) cells. In the present study, MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-468, MCF-7 cells were cultured using RPMI 1640 media with 10% FBS. Vascular endothelia growth factor (VEGF) protein levels were detected using ELISA (R & D Systams). MDA-MB-468 cells were exposed to sunitinib for 18 hours for measuring proliferation (3H-thymidine incorporation), migration (BD Invasion Chamber), and apoptosis (ApopTag and ApoScreen Anuexin V Kit). The effect of sunitinib on Notch-1 expression was determined by Western blot in cultured MDA-MB-468 cells. 10(6) MDA-MB-468 cells were inoculated into the left fourth mammary gland fat pad in athymic nude-foxn1 mice. When the tumor volume reached 100 mm(3), sunitinib was given by gavage at 80 mg/kg/2 days for 4 weeks. Tumor angiogenesis was determined by CD31 immunohistochemistry. Breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) isolated from the tumors were determined by flow cytometry analysis using CD44(+)/CD24(-) or low. ELISA indicated that VEGF was much more highly expressed in MDA-MB-468 cells than MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells. Sunitinib significantly inhibited the proliferation, invasion, and apoptosis resistance in cultured basal like breast cancer cells. Sunitinib significantly increased the expression of Notch-1 protein in cultured MDA-MB-468 or MDA-MB-231 cells. The xenograft models showed that oral sunitinib significantly reduced the tumor volume of TNBCs in association with the inhibition of tumor angiogeneisis, but increased breast CSCs. These findings support the hypothesis that the possibility should be considered of sunitinib increasing breast CSCs though it inhibits TNBC tumor angiogenesis and growth/progression, and that effects of sunitinib on Notch expression and hypoxia may increase breast cancer stem cells. This work provides the groundwork for an innovative therapeutic strategy in TNBC therapy by using sunitinib plus γ-secretase inhibitor to simultaneously target angiogenesis and CSC.
Keywords: Angiogenesis; Apoptosis; Basal-like triple-negative breast cancer; Breast cancer stem cell; Migration; Notch-1; Proliferation; Sunitinib; Xenografts.