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Mol Cancer Res. 2008 May;6(5):706-14. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-07-0355.

Imatinib mesylate inhibits proliferation and exerts an antifibrotic effect in human breast stroma fibroblasts.

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Laboratory of Cell Proliferation and Ageing, Institute of Biology, National Center for Scientific Research "Demokritos," 153 10 Athens, Greece.


Tumor stroma plays an important role in cancer development. In a variety of tumors, such as breast carcinomas, a desmoplastic response, characterized by stromal fibroblast and collagen accumulation, is observed having synergistic effects on tumor progression. However, the effect of known anticancer drugs on stromal cells has not been thoroughly investigated. Imatinib mesylate is a selective inhibitor of several protein tyrosine kinases, including the receptor of platelet-derived growth factor, an important mediator of desmoplasia. Recently, we have shown that imatinib inhibits the growth and invasiveness of human epithelial breast cancer cells. Here, we studied the effect of imatinib on the proliferation and collagen accumulation in breast stromal fibroblasts. We have shown that it blocks the activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase and Akt signaling pathways and up-regulates cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21(WAF1), leading to the inhibition of fibroblast proliferation, by arresting them at the G(0)/G(1) phase of the cell cycle. Imatinib inhibits more potently the platelet-derived growth factor-mediated stimulation of breast fibroblast proliferation. By using specific inhibitors, we have found that this is due to the inhibition of the Akt pathway. In addition, imatinib inhibits fibroblast-mediated collagen accumulation. Conventional and quantitative PCR analysis, as well as gelatin zymography, indicates that this is due to the down-regulation of mRNA synthesis of collagen I and collagen III-the main collagen types in breast stroma-and not to the up-regulation or activation of collagenases matrix metalloproteinase 2 and matrix metalloproteinase 9. These data indicate that imatinib has an antifibrotic effect on human breast stromal fibroblasts that may inhibit desmoplastic reaction and thus tumor progression.

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