Targeting WEE1 Inhibits Growth of Breast Cancer Cells That Are Resistant to Endocrine Therapy and CDK4/6 Inhibitors


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Despite the success of antiestrogens in extending overall survival of patients with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast tumors, resistance to these therapies is prevalent. ER+ tumors that progress on antiestrogens are treated with antiestrogens and CDK4/6 inhibitors. However, 20% of these tumors never respond to CDK4/6 inhibitors due to intrinsic resistance. Here, we used endocrine sensitive ER+ MCF7 and T47D breast cancer cells to generate long-term estrogen deprived (LTED) endocrine resistant cells that are intrinsically resistant to CDK4/6 inhibitors. Since treatment with antiestrogens arrests cells in the G1 phase of the cell cycle, we hypothesized that a defective G1 checkpoint allows resistant cells to escape this arrest but increases their dependency on G2 checkpoint for DNA repair and growth, and hence, targeting the G2 checkpoint will induce cell death. Indeed, inhibition of WEE1, a crucial G2 checkpoint regulator, with AZD1775 (Adavosertib), significantly decreased cell proliferation and increased G2/M arrest, apoptosis and gamma-H2AX levels (a marker for DNA double stranded breaks) in resistant cells compared with sensitive cells. Thus, targeting WEE1 is a promising anti-cancer therapeutic strategy in standard therapy resistant ER+ breast cancer.



estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, endocrine therapy, drug resistance, CDK4, 6 inhibitors, ribociclib, WEE1, AZD1775