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Mol Cancer Res. 2011 Jul;9(7):834-44. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-10-0457. Epub 2011 Jun 10.

Notch1 inhibition alters the CD44hi/CD24lo population and reduces the formation of brain metastases from breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Brain metastasis from breast cancer is an increasingly important clinical problem. Here we assessed the role of CD44(hi)/CD24(lo) cells and pathways that regulate them, in an experimental model of brain metastasis. Notch signaling (mediated by γ-secretase) has been shown to contribute to maintenance of the cancer stem cell (CSC) phenotype. Cells sorted for a reduced stem-like phenotype had a reduced ability to form brain metastases compared with unsorted or CD44(hi)/CD24(lo) cells (P < 0.05; Kruskal-Wallis). To assess the effect of γ-secretase inhibition, cells were cultured with DAPT and the CD44/CD24 phenotypes quantified. 231-BR cells with a CD44(hi)/CD24(lo) phenotype was reduced by about 15% in cells treated with DAPT compared with DMSO-treated or untreated cells (P = 0.001, ANOVA). In vivo, mice treated with DAPT developed significantly fewer micro- and macrometastases compared with vehicle treated or untreated mice (P = 0.011, Kruskal-Wallis). Notch1 knockdown reduced the expression of CD44(hi)/CD24(lo) phenotype by about 20%. In vitro, Notch1 shRNA resulted in a reduction in cellular growth at 24, 48, and 72 hours time points (P = 0.033, P = 0.002, and P = 0.009, ANOVA) and about 60% reduction in Matrigel invasion was observed (P < 0.001, ANOVA). Cells transfected with shNotch1 formed significantly fewer macrometastases and micrometastases compared with scrambled shRNA or untransfected cells (P < 0.001; Kruskal-Wallis). These data suggest that the CSC phenotype contributes to the development of brain metastases from breast cancer, and this may arise in part from increased Notch activity.

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