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Mol Cancer Res. 2010 Apr;8(4):615-26. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-09-0264. Epub 2010 Mar 30.

Erythropoietin-induced activation of the JAK2/STAT5, PI3K/Akt, and Ras/ERK pathways promotes malignant cell behavior in a modified breast cancer cell line.

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Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.


Erythropoietin (Epo), the major regulator of erythropoiesis, and its cognate receptor (EpoR) are also expressed in nonerythroid tissues, including tumors. Clinical studies have highlighted the potential adverse effects of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents when used to treat cancer-related anemia. We assessed the ability of EpoR to enhance tumor growth and invasiveness following Epo stimulation. A benign noninvasive rat mammary cell line, Rama 37, was used as a model system. Cell signaling and malignant cell behavior were compared between parental Rama 37 cells, which express few or no endogenous EpoRs, and a modified cell line stably transfected with human EpoR (Rama 37-28). The incubation of Rama 37-28 cells with pharmacologic levels of Epo led to the rapid and sustained increases in phosphorylation of signal transducers and activators of transcription 5, Akt, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase. The activation of these signaling pathways significantly increased invasion, migration, adhesion, and colony formation. The Epo-induced invasion capacity of Rama 37-28 cells was reduced by the small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of EpoR mRNA levels and by inhibitors of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt and Ras/extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling pathways with adhesion also reduced by Janus-activated kinase 2/signal transducers and activators of transcription 5 inhibition. These data show that Epo induces phenotypic changes in the behavior of breast cancer cell lines and establishes links between individual cell signaling pathways and the potential for cancer spread.

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