Deregulating MYC in a model of HER2+ breast cancer mimics human intertumoral heterogeneity

J Clin Invest. 2020 Jan 2;130(1):231-246. doi: 10.1172/JCI126390.


The c-MYC (MYC) oncoprotein is often overexpressed in human breast cancer; however, its role in driving disease phenotypes is poorly understood. Here, we investigate the role of MYC in HER2+ disease, examining the relationship between HER2 expression and MYC phosphorylation in HER2+ patient tumors and characterizing the functional effects of deregulating MYC expression in the murine NeuNT model of amplified-HER2 breast cancer. Deregulated MYC alone was not tumorigenic, but coexpression with NeuNT resulted in increased MYC Ser62 phosphorylation and accelerated tumorigenesis. The resulting tumors were metastatic and associated with decreased survival compared with NeuNT alone. MYC;NeuNT tumors had increased intertumoral heterogeneity including a subtype of tumors not observed in NeuNT tumors, which showed distinct metaplastic histology and worse survival. The distinct subtypes of MYC;NeuNT tumors match existing subtypes of amplified-HER2, estrogen receptor-negative human tumors by molecular expression, identifying the preclinical utility of this murine model to interrogate subtype-specific differences in amplified-HER2 breast cancer. We show that these subtypes have differential sensitivity to clinical HER2/EGFR-targeted therapeutics, but small-molecule activators of PP2A, the phosphatase that regulates MYC Ser62 phosphorylation, circumvents these subtype-specific differences and ubiquitously suppresses tumor growth, demonstrating the therapeutic utility of this approach in targeting deregulated MYC breast cancers.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Cell Biology; Mouse models; Oncogenes; Oncology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Protein Phosphatase 2 / genetics
  • Protein Phosphatase 2 / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / biosynthesis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*


  • MYC protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Protein Phosphatase 2