Release of HER2 repression of trefoil factor 3 (TFF3) expression mediates trastuzumab resistance in HER2+/ER+ mammary carcinoma

Qing Yun Chong, Ming Liang You, Vijay Pandey, Arindam Banerjee, Yi Jun Chen, Han Ming Poh, Mengyi Zhang, Lan Ma, Tao Zhu, Basappa, Liang Liu, Peter E. Lobie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


HER2+/ER+ breast cancer, a subset of the luminal B subtype, makes up approximately 10% of all breast cancers. The bidirectional crosstalk between HER2 and estrogen receptor (ER) in HER2+/ER+ breast cancer contributes to resistance towards both anti-estrogens and HER2-targeted therapies. TFF3 promotes breast cancer progression and has been implicated in anti-estrogen resistance in breast cancer. Herein, we investigated the cross-regulation between HER2 and estrogenresponsive TFF3, and the role of TFF3 in mediating trastuzumab resistance in HER2+/ER+ breast cancer. TFF3 expression was decreased by HER2 activation, and increased by inhibition of HER2 with trastuzumab in HER2+/ER+ breast cancer cells, partially in an ERa-independent manner. In contrast, the forced expression of TFF3 activated the entire HER family of receptor tyrosine kinases (HER1-4). Hence, HER2 negatively regulates its own signalling through the transcriptional repression of TFF3, while trastuzumab inhibition of HER2 results in increased TFF3 expression to compensate for the loss of HER2 signalling. In HER2+/ER+ breast cancer cells with acquired trastuzumab resistance, TFF3 expression was markedly upregulated and associated with a corresponding decrease in HER signalling. siRNA mediated depletion or small molecule inhibition of TFF3 decreased the survival and growth advantage of the trastuzumab resistant cells without re-sensitization to trastuzumab. Furthermore, TFF3 inhibition abrogated the enhanced cancer stem cell-like behaviour in trastuzumab resistant HER2+/ER+ breast cancer cells. Collectively, TFF3 may function as a potential biomarker and therapeutic target in trastuzumab resistant HER2+/ER+ breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74188-74208
Number of pages21
Issue number43
StatePublished - 2017


  • Breast cancer
  • Estrogen receptor
  • HER2
  • Trastuzumab resistance
  • Trefoil factor 3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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