Topoisomerase I activity and sensitivity to camptothecin in breast cancer-derived cells: a comparative study

Cinzia Tesauro, Anne Katrine Simonsen, Marie Bech Andersen, Kamilla Wandsoe Petersen, Emil Laust Kristoffersen, Line Algreen, Noriko Yokoyama Hansen, Anne Bech Andersen, Ann Katrine Jakobsen, Magnus Stougaard, Pavel Gromov, Birgitta R Knudsen, Irina Gromova

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BACKGROUND: Camptothecin (CPT) and its derivatives are currently used as second- or third-line treatment for patients with endocrine-resistant breast cancer (BC). These drugs convert nuclear enzyme DNA topoisomerase I (TOP1) to a cell poison with the potential to damage DNA by increasing the half-life of TOP1-DNA cleavage complexes (TOP1cc), ultimately resulting in cell death. In small and non-randomized trials for BC, researchers have observed extensive variation in CPT response rates, ranging from 14 to 64%. This variability may be due to the absence of reliable selective parameters for patient stratification. BC cell lines may serve as feasible models for generation of functional criteria that may be used to predict drug sensitivity for patient stratification and, thus, lead to more appropriate applications of CPT in clinical trials. However, no study published to date has included a comparison of multiple relevant parameters and CPT response across cell lines corresponding to specific BC subtypes.

METHOD: We evaluated the levels and possible associations of seven parameters including the status of the TOP1 gene (i.e. amplification), TOP1 protein expression level, TOP1 activity and CPT susceptibility, activity of the tyrosyl-DNA phosphodiesterase 1 (TDP1), the cellular CPT response and the cellular growth rate across a representative panel of BC cell lines, which exemplifies three major BC subtypes: Luminal, HER2 and TNBC.

RESULTS: In all BC cell lines analyzed (without regard to subtype classification), we observed a significant overall correlation between growth rate and CPT response. In cell lines derived from Luminal and HER2 subtypes, we observed a correlation between TOP1 gene copy number, TOP1 activity, and CPT response, although the data were too limited for statistical analyses. In cell lines representing Luminal and TNBC subtypes, we observed a direct correlation between TOP1 protein abundancy and levels of enzymatic activity. In all three subtypes (Luminal, HER2, and TNBC), TOP1 exhibits approximately the same susceptibility to CPT. Of the three subtypes examined, the TNBC-like cell lines exhibited the highest CPT sensitivity and were characterized by the fastest growth rate. This indicates that breast tumors belonging to the TNBC subtype, may benefit from treatment with CPT derivatives.

CONCLUSION: TOP1 activity is not a marker for CPT sensitivity in breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1158
JournalBMC Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019


  • Breast cancer
  • Breast cancer cell lines
  • Breast tumor subtypes
  • Camptothecin sensivity
  • Topoisomerase I


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