A role for tgfβ signaling in preclinical osteolytic estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer bone metastases progression

Julia N. Cheng, Jennifer B. Frye, Susan A. Whitman, Andrew G. Kunihiro, Ritu Pandey, Janet L. Funk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


While tumoral Smad-mediated transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) signaling drives osteolytic estrogen receptor α-negative (ER-) breast cancer bone metastases (BMETs) in preclinical models, its role in ER+ BMETs, representing the majority of clinical BMETs, has not been documented. Experiments were undertaken to examine Smad-mediated TGFβ signaling in human ER+ cells and bone-tropic behavior following intracardiac inoculation of estrogen (E2 )-supplemented female nude mice. While all ER+ tumor cells tested (ZR-75-1, T47D, and MCF-7-derived) expressed TGFβ receptors II and I, only cells with TGFβ-inducible Smad signaling (MCF-7) formed osteolytic BMETs in vivo. Regulated secretion of PTHrP, an osteolytic factor expressed in >90% of clinical BMETs, also tracked with osteolytic potential; TGFβ and E2 each induced PTHrP in bone-tropic or BMET-derived MCF-7 cells, with the combination yielding additive effects, while in cells not forming BMETs, PTHrP was not induced. In vivo treatment with 1D11, a pan-TGFβ neutralizing antibody, significantly decreased osteolytic ER+ BMETs in association with a decrease in bone-resorbing osteoclasts at the tumor-bone interface. Thus, TGFβ may also be a driver of ER+ BMET osteolysis. Moreover, additive pro-osteolytic effects of tumoral E2 and TGFβ signaling could at least partially explain the greater propensity for ER+ tumors to form BMETs, which are primarily osteolytic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4463
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Bone metastases
  • Breast cancer
  • Estrogen receptor positive
  • PTHrP
  • TGFβ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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