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Stem Cells Transl Med. 2013 Mar;2(3):233-42. doi: 10.5966/sctm.2012-0096. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Synergistic effect of the γ-secretase inhibitor PF-03084014 and docetaxel in breast cancer models.

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  • 1Pfizer Global Research and Development, La Jolla, CA, USA.


Notch signaling mediates breast cancer cell survival and chemoresistance. In this report, we aimed to evaluate the antitumor efficacy of PF-03084014 in combination with docetaxel in triple-negative breast cancer models. The mechanism of action was investigated. PF-03084014 significantly enhanced the antitumor activity of docetaxel in multiple xenograft models including HCC1599, MDA-MB-231Luc, and AA1077. Docetaxel activated the Notch pathway by increasing the cleaved Notch1 intracellular domain and suppressing the endogenous Notch inhibitor NUMB. PF-03084014 used in combination with docetaxel reversed these effects and demonstrated early-stage synergistic apoptosis. Docetaxel elicited chemoresistance by elevating cytokine release and expression of survivin and induced an endothelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) phenotype by increasing the expressions of Snail, Slug, and N-cadherin. When reimplanted, the docetaxel-residual cells not only became much more tumorigenic, as evidenced by a higher fraction of tumor-initiating cells (TICs), but also showed higher metastatic potential compared with nontreated cells, leading to significantly shortened survival. In contrast, PF-03084014 was able to suppress expression of survivin and MCL1, reduce ABCB1 and ABCC2, upregulate BIM, reverse the EMT phenotype, and diminish the TICs. Additionally, the changes to the ALDH(+) and CD133(+)/CD44(+) subpopulations following therapy corresponded with the TIC self-renewal assay outcome. In summary, PF-03084014 demonstrated synergistic effects with docetaxel through multiple mechanisms. This work provides a strong preclinical rationale for the clinical utility of PF-03084014 to improve taxane therapy.

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