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Eur J Cancer. 2007 Nov;43(16):2423-33.

Hyaluronan-induced masking of ErbB2 and CD44-enhanced trastuzumab internalisation in trastuzumab resistant breast cancer.

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Department of Biophysics and Cell Biology, Medical and Health Science Centre, University of Debrecen, 1 Egyetem Square, H-4010 Debrecen, Hungary.


Although trastuzumab, a recombinant humanised anti-ErbB2 antibody, is widely used in the treatment of breast cancer, neither its mechanism of action, nor the factors leading to resistance are fully understood. We have previously shown that antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity is pivotal in the in vivo effect of trastuzumab against JIMT-1, a cell line showing in vitro resistance to the antibody, and suggested that masking of the trastuzumab-binding epitope by MUC-4, a cell surface mucin, took place. Here, we further explored the role of masking of ErbB2 in connection with CD44 expression and synthesis of its ligand, hyaluronan. We show that high expression of CD44 observed in JIMT-1 cells correlates with ErbB2 downregulation in vivo, while siRNA-mediated inhibition of CD44 expression leads to decreased rate of trastuzumab internalisation and low cell proliferation in vitro. An inhibitor of hyaluronan synthesis, 4-methylumbelliferon (4-MU) significantly reduced the hyaluronan level of JIMT-1 cells both in vivo and in vitro leading to enhanced binding of trastuzumab to ErbB2 and increased ErbB2 down-regulation. Furthermore, the inhibitory effect of trastuzumab on the growth of JIMT-1 xenografts was significantly increased by 4-MU treatment. Our results point to the importance of the CD44-hyaluronan pathway in the escape of tumour cells from receptor-oriented therapy.

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