Trastuzumab is the first-line targeted therapeutic drug for HER2-positive breast cancer, leading to improved overall survival. However, acquired resistance inevitably occurs. We aimed to identify, quantify, and assess the mechanisms of acquired resistance to trastuzumab. We established an acquired trastuzumab-resistant model in vitro from BT-474, a trastuzumab-sensitive, HER2-amplified breast-cancer cell line. A multi-omic strategy was implemented to obtain gene, proteome, and phosphoproteome signatures associated with acquired resistance to trastuzumab in HER2-positive breast cancer, followed by validation in human clinical samples. YAP1 dephosphorylation and TEAD2 overexpression were detected as significant alterations in the Hippo pathway in trastuzumab-resistant breast cancer. Because of the emerging role of these proteins as mediators of normal growth and tumorigenesis, we assessed the exogenous modulation of their activity, either by in vitro gene silencing or by pharmacological inhibition of the YAP1/TEAD complexes, both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, we identified increased signaling through the Hippo pathway in human samples after progression following trastuzumab treatment. Finally, YAP1/TAZ nuclear accumulation in malignant cells in HER2 breast tumor was significantly associated with worse progression-free and overall survival in metastatic HER2-positive breast-cancer patients. Our results suggest the involvement of Hippo signaling in acquired trastuzumab resistance in breast cancer. Additionally, we provide novel evidence for a potential breast-cancer treatment strategy based on dual targeting of HER2 and Hippo pathway effectors, which may improve the antitumor activity of trastuzumab and help overcome resistance.
Keywords: Hippo pathway; TEAD; YAP1; anti-receptor therapy; breast cancer; resistance; trastuzumab.