Background: RSPO ligands, activators of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, are overexpressed in different cancers. The objective of this study was to investigate the role of RSPOs in breast cancer (BC).
Methods: Expression of RSPO and markers of various cancer pathways were measured in breast tumours and cell lines by qRT-PCR. The effect of RSPO on the Wnt/β-catenin pathway activity was determined by luciferase assay, western blotting, and qRT-PCR. The effect of RSPO2 inhibition on proliferation was determined by using RSPO2 siRNAs. The effect of IWR-1, an inhibitor of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, was examined on the growth of an RSPO2-positive patient-derived xenograft (PDX) model of metaplastic triple-negative BC.
Results: We detected RSPO2 and RSPO4 overexpression levels in BC, particularly in triple-negative BC (TNBC), metaplastic BC, and triple-negative cell lines. Various mechanisms could account for this overexpression: presence of fusion transcripts involving RSPO, and amplification or hypomethylation of RSPO genes. Patients with RSPO2-overexpressing tumours have a poorer metastasis-free survival (P=3.6 × 10-4). RSPO2 and RSPO4 stimulate Wnt/β-catenin pathway activity. Inhibition of RSPO expression in a TN cell line inhibits cell growth, and IWR-1 significantly inhibits the growth of an RSPO2-overexpressing PDX.
Conclusions: RSPO overexpression could therefore be a new prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target for TNBC.