While selective estrogen receptor modulators, such as tamoxifen, have contributed to increased survival in patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, the development of resistance to these therapies has led to the need to investigate other targetable pathways involved in oncogenic signaling. Approval of the mTOR inhibitor everolimus in the therapy of secondary endocrine resistance demonstrates the validity of this approach. Importantly, mTOR activation regulates eukaryotic messenger RNA translation. Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), a component of the cap-dependent translation complex eIF4F, confers resistance to drug-induced apoptosis when overexpressed in multiple cell types. The eIF4F complex is downstream of multiple oncogenic pathways, including mTOR, making it an appealing drug target. Here, we show that the eIF4F translation pathway was hyperactive in tamoxifen-resistant (TamR) MCF-7L breast cancer cells. While overexpression of eIF4E was not sufficient to confer resistance to tamoxifen in MCF-7L cells, its function was necessary to maintain resistance in TamR cells. Targeting the eIF4E subunit of the eIF4F complex through its degradation using an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) or via sequestration using a mutant 4E-BP1 inhibited the proliferation and colony formation of TamR cells and partially restored sensitivity to tamoxifen. Further, the use of these agents also resulted in cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis in TamR cells. Finally, the use of a pharmacologic agent which inhibited the eIF4E-eIF4G interaction also decreased the proliferation and anchorage-dependent colony formation in TamR cells. These results highlight the eIF4F complex as a promising target for patients with acquired resistance to tamoxifen and, potentially, other endocrine therapies.
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