Purpose: Cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) and CDK6 inhibitors (CDK4/6i) are highly effective against estrogen receptor-positive (ER+)/HER2- breast cancer; however, intrinsic and acquired resistance is common. Elucidating the molecular features of sensitivity and resistance to CDK4/6i may lead to identification of predictive biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets, paving the way toward improving patient outcomes.
Experimental design: Parental breast cancer cells and their endocrine-resistant derivatives (EndoR) were used. Derivatives with acquired resistance to palbociclib (PalboR) were generated from parental and estrogen deprivation-resistant MCF7 and T47D cells. Transcriptomic and proteomic analyses were performed in palbociclib-sensitive and PalboR lines. Gene expression data from CDK4/6i neoadjuvant trials and publicly available datasets were interrogated for correlations of gene signatures and patient outcomes.
Results: Parental and EndoR breast cancer lines showed varying degrees of sensitivity to palbociclib. Transcriptomic analysis of these cell lines identified an association between high IFN signaling and reduced CDK4/6i sensitivity; thus an "IFN-related palbociclib-resistance Signature" (IRPS) was derived. In two neoadjuvant trials of CDK4/6i plus endocrine therapy, IRPS and other IFN-related signatures were highly enriched in patients with tumors exhibiting intrinsic resistance to CDK4/6i. PalboR derivatives displayed dramatic activation of IFN/STAT1 signaling compared with their short-term treated or untreated counterparts. In primary ER+/HER2- tumors, the IRPS score was significantly higher in lumB than lumA subtype and correlated with increased gene expression of immune checkpoints, endocrine resistance, and poor prognosis.
Conclusions: Aberrant IFN signaling is associated with intrinsic resistance to CDK4/6i. Experimentally, acquired resistance to palbociclib is associated with activation of the IFN pathway, warranting additional studies to clarify its involvement in resistance to CDK4/6i.
©2021 American Association for Cancer Research.