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IL6 blockade potentiates the anti-tumor effects of gamma-secretase inhibitors in Notch3-expressing breast cancer
Cell Death and Differentiation 25(2):330-339 Feb 2018

Wang, Dong; Xu, Jiahui; Liu, Bingjie; He, Xueyan; Zhou, Lei; Hu, Xin; Qiao, Feng; Zhang, Anli; Xu, Xiaojun; Zhang, Huafeng; Wicha, Max S.; Zhang, Lixing; Shao, Zhi-ming; Liu, Suling

Notch pathways have important roles in carcinogenesis including pathways involving the Notch1 and Notch2 oncogenes. Pan-Notch inhibitors, such as gamma secretase inhibitors (GSIs), have been used in the clinical trials, but the outcomes of these trials have been insufficient and have yielded unclear. In the present study, we demonstrated that GSIs, such as MK-0752 and RO4929097, inhibit breast tumor growth, but increase the breast cancer stem cell (BCSC) population in Notch3-expressing breast cancer cells, in a process that is coupled with IL6 induction and is blocked by the IL6R antagonist Tocilizumab (TCZ). IL6 induction results from inhibition of Notch3-Hey2 signaling through MK-0752. Furthermore, HIF1α upregulates Notch3 expression via direct binding to the Notch3 promoter and subsequently downregulates BCSCs by decreasing the IL6 levels in Notch3-expressing breast cancer cells. Utilizing both breast cancer cell line xenografts and patient-derived xenografts (PDX), we showed that the combination of MK-0752 and Tocilizumab significantly decreases BCSCs and inhibits tumor growth and thus might serve as a novel therapeutic strategy for treating women with Notch3-expressing breast cancers.

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