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Oncogene. 2011 Jan 20;30(3):287-300. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.405. Epub 2010 Sep 13.

The lymphovascular embolus of inflammatory breast cancer exhibits a Notch 3 addiction.

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Department of Pathology, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH, USA.


Inflammatory breast carcinoma (IBC) is characterized by exaggerated lymphovascular invasion (LVI), recapitulated in our human xenograft, MARY-X. This model exhibited lymphovascular emboli in vivo and corresponding spheroids in vitro. Owing to the morphological and gene profile resemblance of these spheroids to embryonal blastocysts, we wondered whether they might exhibit embryonic stem cell signaling. Specifically we investigated Notch and observed selective Notch 3 activation by expression profiling, reverse transcriptase- and real-time PCR, western blot and immunofluorescence in vitro, and immunohistochemistry in vivo. Notch 3 intracellular domain (N3icd) and six target genes, HES-5, HEY-1, c-Myc, Deltex-1, NRARP and PBX1, markedly increased in MARY-X. In addition, a significant percentage of MARY-X cells expressed aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), a stem cell marker. Only the ALDH(+) cells were capable of secondary spheroidgenesis, tumorigenicity and self-renewal. Inhibiting Notch 3 activation in vitro with γ-secretase inhibitors (GSIs) or small interfering RNA resulted in a downregulation of Notch target genes, including CD133, and an induction of caspase 3-mediated apoptosis. Transfection of N3icd but not Notch 1 intracellular domain into normal human mammary epithelial cells resulted in increased expression of Notch target genes and induction of spheroidgenesis. GSI in vivo resulted in inhibitory but diffusion-limited effects on Notch 3 signaling, resulting in xenograft growth reduction. The lymphovascular emboli of human IBC exhibited dual N3icd and ALDH1 immunoreactivities independently of molecular subtype. This Notch 3 addiction of lymphovascular emboli might be exploited in future therapeutic strategies.

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