UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Dependency of Tamoxifen Sensitive and Resistant ER+ Breast Cancer Cells on Semaphorin 3C (SEMA3C) for Growth Bhasin, Satyam; Dusek, Christopher; Peacock, James W.; Cherkasov, Artem; Wang, Yuzhuo; Gleave, Martin E.; Ong, Christopher J.


Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer (BCa) accounts for the highest proportion of breast cancer-related deaths. While endocrine therapy is highly effective for this subpopulation, endocrine resistance remains a major challenge and the identification of novel targets is urgently needed. Previously, we have shown that Semaphorin 3C (SEMA3C) is an autocrine growth factor that drives the growth and treatment resistance of various cancers, but its role in breast cancer progression and endocrine resistance is poorly understood. Here, we report that SEMA3C plays a role in maintaining the growth of ER+ BCa cells and is a novel, tractable therapeutic target for the treatment of ER+ BCa patients. Analyses of publicly available clinical datasets indicate that ER+ BCa patients express significantly higher levels of SEMA3C mRNA than other subtypes. Furthermore, SEMA3C mRNA expression was positively correlated with ESR1 mRNA expression. ER+ BCa cell lines (MCF7 and T47D) expressed higher levels of SEMA3C mRNA and protein than a normal mammary epithelial MCF10A cell line. ER siRNA knockdown was suppressed, while dose-dependent beta-estradiol treatment induced SEMA3C expression in both MCF7 and T47D cells, suggesting that SEMA3C is an ER-regulated gene. The stimulation of ER+ BCa cells with recombinant SEMA3C activated MAPK and AKT signaling in a dose-dependent manner. Conversely, SEMA3C silencing inhibited Estrogen Receptor (ER) expression, MAPK and AKT signaling pathways while simultaneously inducing apoptosis, as monitored by flow cytometry and Western blot analyses. SEMA3C silencing significantly inhibited the growth of ER+ BCa cells, implicating a growth dependency of ER+ BCa cells on SEMA3C. Moreover, the analysis of tamoxifen resistant (TamR) cell models (TamC3 and TamR3) showed that SEMA3C levels remain high despite treatment with tamoxifen. Tamoxifen-resistant cells remained dependent on SEMA3C for growth and survival. Treatment with B1SP Fc fusion protein, a SEMA3C pathway inhibitor, attenuated SEMA3C-induced signaling and growth across a panel of tamoxifen sensitive and resistant ER+ breast cancer cells. Furthermore, SEMA3C silencing and B1SP treatment were associated with decreased EGFR signaling in TamR cells. Here, our study implicates SEMA3C in a functional role in ER+ breast cancer signaling and growth that suggests ER+ BCa patients may benefit from SEMA3C-targeted therapy.

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