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Mol Cancer Res. 2018 Aug 6. pii: molcanres.0135.2018. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-18-0135. [Epub ahead of print]

Suppression of Breast Cancer Stem Cells and Tumor Growth by the RUNX1 Transcription Factor.

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College of Medicine, Biochemistry, University of Vermont.
Biochemistry, University of Vermont College of Medicine.
Biochemistry, University of Vermont College of Medicine


Breast cancer remains the most common malignant disease in women worldwide. Despite advances in detection and therapies, studies are still needed to understand the mechanisms underlying this cancer. Cancer stem cells (CSC) play an important role in tumor formation, growth, drug-resistance and recurrence. Here, it is demonstrated that the transcription factor RUNX1, well known as essential for hematopoietic differentiation, represses the breast cancer stem cell (BCSC) phenotype and suppresses tumor growth in vivo. The present studies show that BCSCs sorted from pre-malignant breast cancer cells exhibit decreased RUNX1 levels, while ectopic expression of RUNX1 suppresses tumorsphere formation and reduces the BCSC population. RUNX1 ectopic expression in breast cancer cells reduces migration, invasion and in vivo tumor growth (57%) in mouse mammary fat pad. Mechanistically, RUNX1 functions to suppress breast cancer tumor growth through repression of cancer stem cell activity and direct inhibition of Zeb1 expression. Consistent with these cellular and biochemical results, clinical findings using patient specimens reveal that the highest RUNX1 levels occur in normal mammary epithelial cells and that low RUNX1 expression in tumors is associated with poor patient survival.


The key finding that RUNX1 represses stemness in several breast cancer cell lines points to the importance of RUNX1 in other solid tumors where RUNX1 may regulate cancer stem cells properties.

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