Arsenic Trioxide Overcomes Rapamycin-Induced Feedback Activation of AKT and ERK Signaling to Enhance the Anti-Tumor Effects in Breast Cancer

Abstract

Inhibitors of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTORi) have clinical activity; however, the benefits of mTOR inhibition by rapamycin and rapamycin-derivatives (rapalogs) may be limited by a feedback mechanism that results in AKT activation. Increased AKT activity resulting from mTOR inhibition can be a result of increased signaling via the mTOR complex, TORC2. Previously, we published that arsenic trioxide (ATO) inhibits AKT activity and in some cases, decreases AKT protein expression. Therefore, we propose that combining ATO and rapamycin may circumvent the AKT feedback loop and increase the anti-tumor effects. Using a panel of breast cancer cell lines, we find that ATO, at clinically-achievable doses, can enhance the inhibitory activity of the mTORi temsirolimus. In all cell lines, temsirolimus treatment resulted in AKT activation, which was decreased by concomitant ATO treatment only in those cell lines where ATO enhanced growth inhibition. Treatment with rapalog also results in activated ERK signaling, which is decreased with ATO co-treatment in all cell lines tested. We next tested the toxicity and efficacy of rapamycin plus ATO combination therapy in a MDA-MB-468 breast cancer xenograft model. The drug combination was well-tolerated, and rapamycin did not increase ATO-induced liver enzyme levels. In addition, combination of these drugs was significantly more effective at inhibiting tumor growth compared to individual drug treatments, which corresponded with diminished phospho-Akt and phospho-ERK levels when compared with rapamycin-treated tumors. Therefore, we propose that combining ATO and mTORi may overcome the feedback loop by decreasing activation of the MAPK and AKT signaling pathways.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085995

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Guilbert2013ArsenicTO, title={Arsenic Trioxide Overcomes Rapamycin-Induced Feedback Activation of AKT and ERK Signaling to Enhance the Anti-Tumor Effects in Breast Cancer}, author={Cynthia M Guilbert and Matthew G. Annis and Zhifeng Dong and Peter M Siegel and W. H. Miller and Koren K. Mann}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2013} }