Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an incurable disease, therefore novel therapies are needed. Bromo and extraterminal domain inhibitors (BETi) are currently in clinical development with promising activity in TNBC. However, resistance to these agents will limit their efficacy. Proteolysis targeting chimeric (PROTAC) are novel compounds that by binding to a ubiquitin ligase promotes protein degradation.
In our study we explore the antitumoral activity of two BET-PROTACs, MZ1 and ARV-825 in TNBC and ovarian cancer. We used MDAMB-231, BT549 and MDAMB-231 JQ1 resistant TNBC cells lines; and OVCAR3 and SKOV3 ovarian cancer cells lines. We evaluated the antiproliferation effect using MTT assay, colony-forming assay and three-dimensional cultures in Matrigel. To explore the molecular mechanism of drugs we used flow cytometry (cell cycle and cell death). The analysis of protein expression was determined by western blot. In vivo studies included BALB/c nu/nu mice that were injected with MDAMB-231 JQ1 resistant cells and later treated with BETi JQ1 and BET-PROTAC MZ1.
Both PROTACs efficiently and maintained deleted the levels of BRD4 in MDA-MB-231 and in the resistant JQ1 cell line MDA-MB-231R. MZ1 and ARV-825 showed a profound antiproliferative effect in MDA-MD-231 sensitive and resistant cells using 2D and 3D cultures, and had a similar activity in other triple negative (BT549) and ovarian cancer (SKOV3, OVCAR) cell lines. MZ1 slightly arrested cells at G2/M in sensitive and resistant JQ1 MDA-MB-231 cells. In addition, a profound effect on apoptosis was observed, that was more evident in the sensitive cell line, effect that was caspase dependent. Given the potent antiproliferative activity of MZ1 no synergistic activity was observed when combined with docetaxel, cisplation or olaparib. Finally, administration of MZ1 was able to recue tumor growth in nude mice of MDA-MB-231 JQ1 resistant cells, by reducing the expression of BRD4.
We describe the profound activity of BET-PROTACs in TNBC cell lines and in an in vivo BETi resistant model. This data provides options for further clinical development of these agents in TNBC.
Instituto de Salud Carlos III (PI16/01121), ACEPAIN; Diputación de Albacete, CIBERONC, CRIS Cancer Foundation, implementation research program of the UCLM System of Science, Technology and Innovation-Secti (co-funded by the European Commission/FSE funds) and scientific foundation of the AECC.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.