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Cancer Res. 2007 Dec 15;67(24):12026-33.

Ataxia telangiectasia-mutated and p53 are potential mediators of chloroquine-induced resistance to mammary carcinogenesis.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The use of agents to prevent the onset of and/or the progression to breast cancer has the potential to lower breast cancer risk. We have previously shown that the tumor-suppressor gene p53 is a potential mediator of hormone (estrogen/progesterone)-induced protection against chemical carcinogen-induced mammary carcinogenesis in animal models. Here, we show for the first time a breast cancer-protective effect of chloroquine in an animal model. Chloroquine significantly reduced the incidence of N-methyl-N-nitrosourea-induced mammary tumors in our animal model similar to estrogen/progesterone treatment. No protection was seen in our BALB/c p53-null mammary epithelium model, indicating a p53 dependency for the chloroquine effect. Using a human nontumorigenic mammary gland epithelial cell line, MCF10A, we confirm that in the absence of detectable DNA damage, chloroquine activates the tumor-suppressor p53 and the p53 downstream target gene p21, resulting in G(1) cell cycle arrest. p53 activation occurs at a posttranslational level via chloroquine-dependent phosphorylation of the checkpoint protein kinase, ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM), leading to ATM-dependent phosphorylation of p53. In primary mammary gland epithelial cells isolated from p53-null mice, chloroquine does not induce G(1) cell cycle arrest compared with cells isolated from wild-type mice, also indicating a p53 dependency. Our results indicate that a short prior exposure to chloroquine may have a preventative application for mammary carcinogenesis.

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