Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Experimental Therapeutics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Lajos Pusztai, MD, DPhil

Committee Member

Francisco Esteva, MD, PhD

Committee Member

Michelle Barton, PhD

Committee Member

Hui-Kuan Lin, PhD

Committee Member

Jonathan Trent II, MD, PhD


Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) are characterized by the lack of or reduced expression of the estrogen and progesterone receptors, and normal expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. The lack of a well-characterized target for treatment leaves only systemic chemotherapy as the mainstay of treatment. Approximately 60-70% of patients are chemosensitive, while the remaining majority does not respond. Targeted therapies that take advantage of the unique molecular perturbations found in triple-negative breast cancer are needed. The genes that are frequently amplified or overexpressed represent potential therapeutic targets for triple-negative breast cancer. The purpose of this study was to identify and validate novel therapeutic targets for triple-negative breast cancers.

681 genes showed consistent and highly significant overexpression in TNBC compared to receptor-positive cancers in 2 data sets. For two genes, 3 of the 4 siRNAs showed preferential growth inhibition in TNBC cells. These two genes were the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 8 (LRP8) and very low-density lipoprotein receptor (VLDLR). Exposure to their cognate ligands, reelin and apolipoprotein E isoform 4 (ApoE4), stimulated the growth of TNBC cells in vitro. Suppression of the expression of either LRP8 or VLDLR or exposure to RAP (an inhibitor of ligand binding to LRP8 and VLDLR) abolished this ligand-induced proliferation. High-throughput protein and metabolic arrays revealed that ApoE4 stimulation rescued TNBC cells from serum-starvation induced up-regulation of genes involved in lipid biosynthesis, increased protein expression of oncogenes involved in the MAPK/ERK and DNA repair pathways, and reduced the serum-starvation induction of biochemicals involved in oxidative stress response and glycolytic metabolism. shLRP8 MDA-MB-231 xenografts had reduced tumor volume, in comparison to parental and shCON xenografts. These results indicate that LRP8-APOE signaling confers survival advantages to TNBC tumors under reduced nutrient conditions and during cellular environmental stress.

We revealed that the LRP8-APOE receptor-ligand system is overexpressed in human TNBC. We also demonstrated that this receptor system mediates a strong growth promoting and survival function in TNBC cells in vitro and helps to sustain the growth of MDA-MD-231 xenografts. We propose that inhibitors of LRP8-APOE signaling may be clinically useful therapeutic agents for triple-negative breast cancer.



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