Metabolic reprogramming underlies metastatic potential in an obesity-responsive murine model of metastatic triple negative breast cancer

NPJ Breast Cancer. 2017 Jul 17;3:26. doi: 10.1038/s41523-017-0027-5. eCollection 2017.


The vast majority of cancer-related deaths are due to metastatic disease, whereby primary tumor cells disseminate and colonize distal sites within the body. Triple negative breast cancer typically displays aberrant Wnt signaling, lacks effective targeted therapies, and compared with other breast cancer subtypes, is more likely to recur and metastasize. We developed a Wnt-driven lung metastasis model of triple negative breast cancer (metM-Wntlung) through serial passaging of our previously described, nonmetastatic, claudin-low M-Wnt cell line. metM-Wntlung cells displayed characteristics of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (e.g., increased invasiveness) with some re-epithealization (e.g., increased adhesion, tight colony formation, increased E-cadherin expression, and decreased Vimentin and Fibronectin expression). When orthotopically transplanted into syngeneic mice, metM-Wntlung cells readily formed tumors and metastasized in vivo, and tumor growth and metastasis were enhanced in obese mice compared with non-obese mice. Gene expression analysis revealed several genes and pathways altered in metM-Wntlung cells compared with M-Wnt cells, including multiple genes associated with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, energy metabolism and inflammation. Moreover, obesity caused significant transcriptomic changes, especially in metabolic pathways. Metabolic flux analyses showed greater metabolic plasticity, with heightened mitochondrial and glycolytic energetics in metM-Wntlung cells relative to M-Wnt cells. Similar metabolic profiles were found in a second triple negative breast cancer progression series, M6 and M6C cells. These findings suggest that metabolic reprogramming is a feature of metastatic potential in triple negative breast cancer. Thus, targeting metastases-associated metabolic perturbations may represent a novel strategy for reducing the burden of metastatic triple negative breast cancer, particularly in obese women.