The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Mediates Raloxifene-induced Apoptosis in Estrogen Receptor Negative Hepatoma and Breast Cancer Cells Public Deposited

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  • Identification of new molecular targets for the treatment of breast cancer is an important clinical goal, especially for triple-negative breast cancer, which is refractory to existing targeted treatments. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor known primarily as the mediator of dioxin toxicity. However, the AhR can also inhibit cellular proliferation in a ligand-dependent manner and act as a tumor suppressor in mice, and thus may be a potential anticancer target. To investigate the AhR as an anticancer target, we conducted a small molecule screen to discover novel AhR ligands with anticancer properties. We identified raloxifene, a selective estrogen receptor (ER) modulator currently used in the clinic for prevention of ER-positive breast cancer and osteoporosis in post-menopausal women, as an AhR activator. Raloxifene directly bound the AhR and induced apoptosis in ER-negative mouse and human hepatoma cells in an AhR-dependent manner, indicating that the AhR is a molecular target of raloxifene and mediates raloxifene-induced apoptosis in the absence of ER. Raloxifene selectively induced apoptosis of triple-negative MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells compared with non-transformed mammary epithelial cells via the AhR. Combined with recent data showing that raloxifene inhibits triple-negative breast cancer xenografts in vivo (Int J Oncol. 43(3):785-92, 2013), our results support the possibility of repurposing of raloxifene as an AhR-targeted therapeutic for triple-negative breast cancer patients. To this end, we also evaluated the role of AhR expression on survival of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. We found that higher expression of the AhR is significantly associated with increased overall survival and distant metastasis-free survival in both hormone-dependent (ER-positive) and hormone-independent (ER and progesterone receptor (PR)-negative) breast cancers. Together, our data strongly support the possibility of using the AhR as a molecular target for the treatment of hormone-independent breast cancers.
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  • O'Donnell, E. F., Koch, D. C., Bisson, W. H., Jang, H. S., & Kolluri, S. K. (2014, January 30). The aryl hydrocarbon receptor mediates raloxifeneinduced apoptosis in estrogen receptor-negative hepatoma and breast cancer cells. Cell Death and Disease. doi:10.1038/cddis.2013.549
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