Cancer Res 2013 Nov 12;73(21):6424-34. Epub 2013 Sep 12.
Authors' Affiliations: Department of Medical Oncology and Pathology, Hospital Clínic, Institut d'Investigacions Biomediques August Pi i Sunyer, Department of Medicine, University of Barcelona; Department of Cell Biology, Immunology, and Neurosciences, Medical School, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Department of Pathology, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seongnam, Korea; Department of Genetics, Oslo University Hospital Radiumhospitalet, Norway; and Department of Medicine and Experimental Oncology, Torino University, Turin, Italy.
ERBB receptor transmodulation by heterologous G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) generates functional diversity in signal transduction. Tachykinins are neuropeptides and proinflammatory cytokines that promote cell survival and cancer progression by activating several GPCRs. In this work, we found that the pain-associated tachykinin Substance P (SP) contributes to persistent transmodulation of the ERBB receptors, EGFR and HER2, in breast cancer, acting to enhance malignancy and therapeutic resistance. SP and its high-affinity receptor NK-1R were highly expressed in HER2(+) primary breast tumors (relative to the luminal and triple-negative subtypes) and were overall correlated with poor prognosis factors. In breast cancer cell lines and primary cultures derived from breast cancer samples, we found that SP could activate HER2. Conversely, RNA interference-mediated attenuation of NK-1R, or its chemical inhibition, or suppression of overall GPCR-mediated signaling, all strongly decreased steady-state expression of EGFR and HER2, establishing that their basal activity relied upon transdirectional activation by GPCR. Thus, SP exposure affected cellular responses to anti-ERBB therapies. Our work reveals an important oncogenic cooperation between NK-1R and HER2, thereby adding a novel link between inflammation and cancer progression that may be targetable by SP antagonists that have been clinically explored.