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Sortilin inhibition limits secretion-induced progranulin-dependent breast cancer progression and cancer stem cell expansion

Journal article
Authors Sara Rhost
Éamon Hughes
H. Harrison
Svanheidur Rafnsdottir
Hanna Jacobsson
Pernilla Gregersson
Ylva Magnusson
Paul A. Fitzpatrick
Daniel Andersson
Karoline Berger
Anders Ståhlberg
Göran Landberg
Published in Breast cancer research : BCR
Volume 20
Issue 1
Pages 137
ISSN 1465-542X
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Surgery
Sahlgrenska Cancer Center
Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Pathology
Pages 137
Language en
Keywords Breast cancer, Cancer stem cells, Dedifferentiation, Differentiation, Hypoxia, Metastasis, Secretion
Subject categories Cancer and Oncology


BACKGROUND: Cancer progression is influenced by genetic aberrations in the cancer cell population as well as by other factors including the microenvironment present within a tumour. Direct interactions between various cell types as well as cellular signalling via secreted cytokines can drive key tumourigenic properties associated with disease progression and treatment resistance. Also, cancer stem cell functions are influenced by the microenvironment. This challenging subset of cells has been linked to malignant properties. Within a screen, using in vivo like growth conditions, we identified progranulin as a highly secreted cytokine affecting cancer stem cells in breast cancer. This cytokine is known to play a role in numerous biological and tumour-related processes including therapy resistance in a range of cancer types. METHODS: Different in vitro and in vivo relevant conditions were used to validate breast cancer stem cell expansion mediated by progranulin and its receptor sortilin. Small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) and pharmacological inhibition of sortilin were used to elucidate the role of sortilin as a functional receptor during progranulin-induced breast cancer stem cell propagation, both in vitro and in vivo, using breast cancer xenograft models. In addition, single-cell gene expression profiling as well as a Sox2 reporter breast cancer cell line were used to validate the role of dedifferentiation mediated by progranulin. RESULTS: In various in vivo-like screening assays, progranulin was identified as a potent cancer stem cell activator, highly secreted in ERα-negative breast cancer as well as in ERα-positive breast cancer under hypoxic adaptation. Progranulin exposure caused dedifferentiation as well as increased proliferation of the cancer stem cell pool, a process that was shown to be dependent on its receptor sortilin. Subcutaneous injections of progranulin or its active domain (GRN A) induced lung metastases in breast cancer xenograft models, supporting a major role for progranulin in cancer progression. Importantly, an orally bioavailable small molecule (AF38469) targeting sortilin, blocked GRN A-induced lung metastases and prevented cancer cell infiltration of the skin. CONCLUSION: The collective results suggest that sortilin targeting represents a potential novel breast cancer therapy approach inhibiting tumour progression driven by secretion and microenvironmental influences.

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