Lactoferrin-endothelin-1 axis contributes to the development and invasiveness of triple-negative breast cancer phenotypes

Ngoc Han Ha, Vasudha S. Nair, Divijendra Natha Sirigiri Reddy, Prakriti Mudvari, Kazufumi Ohshiro, Krishna Sumanth Ghanta, Suresh B. Pakala, Da Qiang Li, Luis Costa, Allan Lipton, Rajendra A. Badwe, Suzanne Fuqua, Margaretha Wallon, George C. Prendergast, Rakesh Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is characterized by the lack of expression of estrogen receptor-α (ER-α), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER-2). However, pathways responsible for downregulation of therapeutic receptors, as well as subsequent aggressiveness, remain unknown. In this study, we discovered that lactoferrin (Lf) efficiently downregulates levels of ER-α, PR, and HER-2 in a proteasome-dependent manner in breast cancer cells, and it accounts for the loss of responsiveness to ER- or HER-2-targeted therapies. Furthermore, we found that lactoferrin increases migration and invasiveness of both non-TNBC and TNBC cell lines. We discovered that lactoferrin directly stimulates the transcription of endothelin-1 (ET-1), a secreted proinvasive polypeptide that acts through a specific receptor, ET(A)R, leading to secretion of the bioactive ET-1 peptide. Interestingly, a therapeutic ET-1 receptor-antagonist blocked lactoferrin-dependent motility and invasiveness of breast cancer cells. The physiologic significance of this newly discovered Lf-ET-1 axis in the manifestation of TNBC phenotypes is revealed by elevated plasma and tissue lactoferrin and ET-1 levels in patients with TNBC compared with those in ER + cases. These findings describe the first physiologically relevant polypeptide as a functional determinant in downregulating all three therapeutic receptors in breast cancer, which uses another secreted ET-1 system to confer invasiveness. Results presented in this article provide proof-of-principle evidence in support of the therapeutic effectiveness of ET-1 receptor antagonist to completely block the lactoferrin-induced motility and invasiveness of the TNBC as well as non-TNBC cells, and thus, open a remarkable opportunity to treat TNBC by targeting the Lf-ET-1 axis using an approved developmental drug.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7259-7269
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Research
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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