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Int J Oncol. 2009 Jul;35(1):57-68.

FoxM1 is a downstream target and marker of HER2 overexpression in breast cancer.

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Cancer Research-UK Labs, Department of Oncology, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital Campus, London W12 0NN, UK.


The tyrosine kinase receptor, HER2 is a crucial prognostic marker and therapeutic target for breast cancer; however, the downstream targets and biological effectors of HER2 remain unclear. We investigated the relationship between HER2 and the transcription factor FoxM1 in breast cancer. HER2 and FoxM1 expression levels were compared in breast carcinoma cell lines, paraffin-embedded breast cancer patient samples and at the mRNA level in purified breast epithelial cells. To further examine the relationship between HER2 and FoxM1 expression, we either overexpressed or siRNA-mediated depleted endogenous HER2 in breast cancer cell lines. Additionally, a mammary epithelium-targeted HER2 (neu) transgenic mouse model was also used to assess the effect of HER2 on FoxM1 levels. Furthermore, the effect of the HER2-tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib on FoxM1 in HER2 positive breast cancer cells was investigated. HER2 protein levels directly correlated with FoxM1 expression in both breast carcinoma cell lines and paraffin-embedded breast cancer patient samples. Moreover, in purified breast epithelial cells, overexpression of HER2 was associated with high levels of FoxM1 mRNA, suggesting that the upregulation of FoxM1 expression is at least partially mediated transcriptionally. Furthermore, overexpression or ablation of endogenous HER2 resulted in parallel changes in FoxM1 expression. Critically, mammary epithelium-targeted HER2 mouse tumours also resulted in increased FoxM1 expression, suggesting that HER2 directed FoxM1 expression occurs in vivo and may be a critical downstream effector of HER2-targeting therapies. Indeed, treatment of breast cancer cells with lapatinib reduced FoxM1 expression at protein, mRNA and gene promoter levels. Moreover, analysis of normal and breast cancer patient samples revealed that elevated FoxM1 expression at protein and mRNA levels correlated with breast cancer development, but not significantly with cancer progression and survival. Our results indicate that the HER2 receptor regulates the expression of the FoxM1 transcription factor, which has a role in breast cancer development.

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