Cholesterol and its metabolites act as steroid hormone precursors, which promote estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer (BC) progression. Development of cholesterol targeting anticancer drugs has been hindered due to the lack of knowledge of viable molecular targets. Till now, Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) has been envisaged as a feasible molecular target in atherosclerosis, but for the first time, we show that CETP contributes to BC cell survival when challenged with cholesterol depleting agents. We show that MCF-7 CETP knockout BC cells pose less resistance towards cytotoxic compounds (Tamoxifen and Acetyl Plumbagin (AP)), and were more susceptible to intrinsic apoptosis. Analysis of differentially expressed genes using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA), in vivo tumor inhibition, and in vitro phenotypic responses to AP revealed a unique CETP-centric cholesterol pathway involved in sensitizing ER+ BC cells to intrinsic mitochondrial apoptosis. Furthermore, analysis of cell line, tissue and patient data available in publicly available databases linked elevated CETP expression to cancer, cancer relapse and overall poor survival. Overall, our findings highlight CETP as a pharmacologically relevant and unexploited cellular target in BC. The work also highlights AP as a promising chemical entity for preclinical investigations as a cholesterol depleting anticancer therapeutic agent.
Esau, L., Sagar, S., Bangarusamy, D., & Kaur, M. (2016). Identification of CETP as a molecular target for estrogen positive breast cancer cell death by cholesterol depleting agents. Genes and Cancer, 7(9–10), 309–322. https://doi.org/10.18632/genesandcancer.122