Combined Treatment with Epigenetic, Differentiating, and Chemotherapeutic Agents Cooperatively Targets Tumor-Initiating Cells in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Cancer Res. 2016 Apr 1;76(7):2013-2024. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-1619. Epub 2016 Jan 19.


Efforts to induce the differentiation of cancer stem cells through treatment with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) have yielded limited success, partially due to the epigenetic silencing of the retinoic acid receptor (RAR)-β The histone deacetylase inhibitor entinostat is emerging as a promising antitumor agent when added to the standard-of-care treatment for breast cancer. However, the combination of epigenetic, cellular differentiation, and chemotherapeutic approaches against triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) has not been investigated. In this study, we found that combined treatment of TNBC xenografts with entinostat, ATRA, and doxorubicin (EAD) resulted in significant tumor regression and restoration of epigenetically silenced RAR-β expression. Entinostat and doxorubicin treatment inhibited topoisomerase II-β (TopoII-β) and relieved TopoII-β-mediated transcriptional silencing of RAR-β Notably, EAD was the most effective combination in inducing differentiation of breast tumor-initiating cells in vivo Furthermore, gene expression analysis revealed that the epithelium-specific ETS transcription factor-1 (ESE-1 or ELF3), known to regulate proliferation and differentiation, enhanced cell differentiation in response to EAD triple therapy. Finally, we demonstrate that patient-derived metastatic cells also responded to treatment with EAD. Collectively, our findings strongly suggest that entinostat potentiates doxorubicin-mediated cytotoxicity and retinoid-driven differentiation to achieve significant tumor regression in TNBC. Cancer Res; 76(7); 2013-24. ©2016 AACR.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics*