Modeling Neoadjuvant chemotherapy resistance in vitro increased NRP-1 and HER2 expression and converted MCF7 breast cancer subtype

Br J Pharmacol. 2020 May;177(9):2024-2041. doi: 10.1111/bph.14966. Epub 2020 Feb 15.


Background and purpose: Patients with locally advanced breast cancer usually receive third-generation neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC). Although NAC treatment improved the overall survival, patients' response varies, some acquire resistance and others exhibit a conversion in their breast cancer molecular subtype. We aimed to identify the molecular changes involved in NAC resistance attempting to find new therapeutic targets in different breast cancer subtypes.

Experimental approach: We modelled NAC treatments used in clinical practice and generated resistant cell lines in vitro. The resistant cells were generated by consecutive treatment with four cycles of doxorubicin (adriamycin)/cyclophosphamide (4xAC) followed by an additional four cycles of paclitaxel (4xAC + 4xPAC).

Key results: Our data revealed distinct mechanisms of resistance depending on breast cancer subtype and drugs used. MDA-MB-231 cells resistant to 4xAC + 4xPAC activated neuropilin-1/TNC/integrin β3/FAK/NF-κBp65 axis and displayed a decrease in breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP/ABCB2). However, MCF7 cells resistant to 4xAC treatments induced HER2 expression, which converted MCF7 subtype from luminal A to luminal B HER2 type, up-regulated neuropilin-1, oestrogen receptor-α, and EGFR, and activated PI3K/Akt/NF-κBp65 axis. However, MCF7 cells resistant to 4xAC + 4xPAC exhibited down-regulation of the survival axis and up-regulated BCRP/ABCG2. Co-immunoprecipitation demonstrated a novel interaction between HER2 and neuropilin-1 driving the resistance features.

Conclusions and implications: The concurrent increase in neuropilin-1 and HER2 upon resistance and the inverse relationship between neuropilin-1 and BCRP/ABCG2 suggest that, in addition to HER2, neuropilin-1 status should be assessed in patients undergoing NAC, and as a potential drug target for refractory breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols
  • Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuropilin-1 / therapeutic use
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Neuropilin-1
  • Receptor, ErbB-2