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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 1;108(5):2058-63. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018157108. Epub 2011 Jan 13.

High-throughput ectopic expression screen for tamoxifen resistance identifies an atypical kinase that blocks autophagy.

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The Virginia G Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.


Resistance to tamoxifen in breast cancer patients is a serious therapeutic problem and major efforts are underway to understand underlying mechanisms. Resistance can be either intrinsic or acquired. We derived a series of subcloned MCF7 cell lines that were either highly sensitive or naturally resistant to tamoxifen and studied the factors that lead to drug resistance. Gene-expression studies revealed a signature of 67 genes that differentially respond to tamoxifen in sensitive vs. resistant subclones, which also predicts disease-free survival in tamoxifen-treated patients. High-throughput cell-based screens, in which >500 human kinases were independently ectopically expressed, identified 31 kinases that conferred drug resistance on sensitive cells. One of these, HSPB8, was also in the expression signature and, by itself, predicted poor clinical outcome in one cohort of patients. Further studies revealed that HSPB8 protected MCF7 cells from tamoxifen and blocked autophagy. Moreover, silencing HSBP8 induced autophagy and caused cell death. Tamoxifen itself induced autophagy in sensitive cells but not in resistant ones, and tamoxifen-resistant cells were sensitive to the induction of autophagy by other drugs. These results may point to an important role for autophagy in the sensitivity to tamoxifen.

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