Distant relapse after chemotherapy is an important clinical issue for treating breast cancer patients and results from the development of cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) during chemotherapy. Here we report that blocking epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) suppresses paclitaxel-induced CSCs properties by using a MDA-MB-231-xenografted mice model (in vivo), and breast cancer cell lines (in vitro). Paclitaxel, one of the cytotoxic taxane-drugs such as docetaxel, increases mesenchymal markers (Vimentin and Fibronectin) and decreases an epithelial marker (Zo-1). Blocking TGF-β signaling with the TGF-β type I receptor kinase (ALK5) inhibitor, EW-7197, suppresses paclitaxel-induced EMT and CSC properties such as mammosphere-forming efficiency (MSFE), aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity, CD44+/CD24- ratio, and pluripotency regulators (Oct4, Nanog, Klf4, Myc, and Sox2). The combinatorial treatment of EW-7197 improves the therapeutic effect of paclitaxel by decreasing the lung metastasis and increasing the survival time in vivo. We confirmed that Snail is increased by paclitaxel-induced intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) and EW-7197 suppresses the paclitaxel-induced Snail and EMT by attenuating paclitaxel-induced intracellular ROS. Knock-down of SNAI1 suppresses paclitaxel-induced EMT and CSC properties. These data together suggest that blocking the Snail-induced EMT with the ALK5 inhibitor attenuates metastasis after paclitaxel-therapy and that this combinatorial approach could prove useful in treating breast cancer.
- Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
- Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)