Numerous studies by our lab and others demonstrate that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) plays critical roles in primary breast cancer (BC) initiation, growth and dissemination. However, clinical trials targeting EGFR function in BC have lead to disappointing results. In the current study we sought to identify the mechanisms responsible for this disparity by investigating the function of EGFR across the continuum of the metastatic cascade. We previously established that overexpression of EGFR is sufficient for formation of in situ primary tumors by otherwise nontransformed murine mammary gland cells. Induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is sufficient to drive the metastasis of these EGFR-transformed tumors. Examining growth factor receptor expression across this and other models revealed a potent downregulation of EGFR through metastatic progression. Consistent with diminution of EGFR following EMT and metastasis EGF stimulation changes from a proliferative to an apoptotic response in in situ versus metastatic tumor cells, respectively. Furthermore, overexpression of EGFR in metastatic MDA-MB-231 BC cells promoted their antitumorigenic response to EGF in three dimensional (3D) metastatic outgrowth assays. In line with the paradoxical function of EGFR through EMT and metastasis we demonstrate that the EGFR inhibitory molecule, Mitogen Induced Gene-6 (Mig6), is tumor suppressive in in situ tumor cells. However, Mig6 expression is absolutely required for prevention of apoptosis and ultimate metastasis of MDA-MB-231 cells. Further understanding of the paradoxical function of EGFR between primary and metastatic tumors will be essential for application of its targeted molecular therapies in BC.
Copyright © 2014 Neoplasia Press, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.