We previously reported using statins was correlated with improved metastasis-free survival in aggressive breast cancer. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of statins on metastatic colonization by triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells. TNBC cell lines were treated with simvastatin and then studied for cell cycle progression and proliferation in vitro, and metastasis formation in vivo, following injection of statin-treated cells. Reverse-phase protein assay (RPPA) analysis was performed on statin-treated and control breast cancer cells. RNA interference targeting FOXO3a was used to measure the impact of simvastatin on FOXO3a-expressing cells. The prognostic value of FOXO3a mRNA expression was examined in eight public breast cancer gene expression datasets including 1479 patients. Simvastatin increased G1/S-phase arrest of the cell cycle and inhibited both proliferation and migration of TNBC cells in vitro. In vitro pre-treatment and in vivo treatment with simvastatin reduced metastases. Phosphorylated FOXO3a was downregulated after simvastatin treatment in (RPPA) analysis. Ectopic expression of FOXO3a enhanced mammosphere formation and migratory capacity in vitro. Knockdown of FOXO3a attenuated the effect of simvastatin on mammosphere formation and migration. Analysis of public gene expression data demonstrates FOXO3a mRNA downregulation was independently associated with shorter metastasis-free survival in all breast cancers, as well as in TNBC breast cancers. Simvastatin inhibits in vitro endpoints associated with metastasis through a FOXO3a mechanism and reduced metastasis formation in vivo. FOXO3a expression is prognostic for metastasis formation in patient data. Further investigation of simvastatin as a cancer therapy is warranted.
Keywords: FOXO3a; Metastasis; Simvastatin; Triple-negative breast cancer.