Chemotherapy resistance is a critical barrier in cancer treatment. Metabolic adaptations have been shown to fuel therapy resistance; however, little is known regarding the generality of these changes and whether specific therapies elicit unique metabolic alterations. Using a combination of metabolomics, transcriptomics, and functional genomics, we show that two anthracyclines, doxorubicin and epirubicin, elicit distinct primary metabolic vulnerabilities in human breast cancer cells. Doxorubicin-resistant cells rely on glutamine to drive oxidative phosphorylation and de novo glutathione synthesis, while epirubicin-resistant cells display markedly increased bioenergetic capacity and mitochondrial ATP production. The dependence on these distinct metabolic adaptations is revealed by the increased sensitivity of doxorubicin-resistant cells and tumor xenografts to buthionine sulfoximine (BSO), a drug that interferes with glutathione synthesis, compared with epirubicin-resistant counterparts that are more sensitive to the biguanide phenformin. Overall, our work reveals that metabolic adaptations can vary with therapeutics and that these metabolic dependencies can be exploited as a targeted approach to treat chemotherapy-resistant breast cancer.
Keywords: PGC-1; anthracyclines; bioenergetics; breast cancer; cancer biology; human; metabolomics; mouse; therapeutic resistance.
© 2021, McGuirk et al.