Downregulation of GLUT4 contributes to effective intervention of estrogen receptor-negative/HER2-overexpressing early stage breast disease progression by lapatinib

Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors (AIs) have shown efficacy in prevention of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer; however, there exists no proven prevention strategy for estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer. Up to 40% of ER- breast cancers have human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 overexpression (HER2+), suggesting HER2 signaling might be a good target for chemoprevention for certain ER- breast cancers. Here, we tested the feasibility of the HER2-targeting agent lapatinib in prevention and/or early intervention of an ER-/HER2+ early-stage breast disease model. We found that lapatinib treatment forestalled the progression of atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH)-like acini to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)-like acini in ER-/HER2+ human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) in 3D culture. Mechanistically, we found that inhibition of HER2/Akt signaling by lapatinib led to downregulation of GLUT4 and a reduced glucose uptake in HER2-overexpressing cells, resulting in decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis of these cells in 3D culture. Additionally, our data suggest that HER2-driven glycolytic metabolic dysregulation in ER-/HER2+ HMECs might promote early-stage breast disease progression, which can be reversed by lapatinib treatment. Furthermore, low-dose lapatinib treatment, starting at the early stages of mammary grand transformation in the MMTV-neu* mouse model, significantly delayed mammary tumor initiation and progression, extended tumor-free survival, which corresponded to effective inhibition of HER2/Akt signaling and downregulation of GLUT4 in vivo. Taken together, our results indicate that lapatinib, through its inhibition of key signaling pathways and tumor-promoting metabolic events, is a promising agent for the prevention/early intervention of ER-/HER2+ breast cancer progression.

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