Opioid growth factor receptor (OGFR) expression is downregulated with progression of triple negative breast cancer
Purpose: Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer that accounts for approximately 15% of the newly diagnosed cancers worldwide, and disproportionately affects younger women and women of color. Although many forms of breast cancer are successfully treated, new therapies are needed for TNBC. A novel regulatory system, the opioid growth factor (OGF) – opioid growth factor receptor (OGFr) axis, plays a determining role in neoplasia. OGF is an endogenous peptide that binds specifically to OGFr to inhibit cell replication. As some human cancers grow, OGFr expression is diminished, thus limiting the therapeutic efficacy of OGF. The OGF-OGFr axis is present in human TNBC cell line MDA-MB-231 and OGF inhibits cell replication in a dosage-related, receptor-mediated manner.
Methods: The present study investigated whether OGFr protein expression in human breast cancer cell lines grown in vitro or transplanted into nude mice, changed with the stage of proliferation or size of tumor using western blotting, semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry, and DNA synthesis techniques.
Results: Comparison of log and confluent TNBC cultures revealed that OGF expression was significantly decreased in confluent cultures relative to levels in log-phase cells. Western blot analyses confirmed that OGFr was reduced in confluent TNBC and MCF-7 breast cancer cells in comparison to corresponding log-phase cells. Moreover, BrdU labeling was reduced in confluent cells. Small (<500 mm3) and large (>1000 mm3) TNBC tumors grown in nude mice were processed for semiquantitative measurement of OGF and OGFr. The expression of both peptide and receptor in large tumors was downregulated relative to small tumors.
Conclusion: The reduced expression of the inhibitory peptide and receptor diminishes the efficacy of the OGF-OGFr axis as a biotherapy. These data suggest that the OGF-OGFr pathway is altered with cancer progression and one or more elements of this regulatory pathway may serve as biomarkers for TNBC growth.
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