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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Roscovitine confers tumor suppressive effect on therapy-resistant breast tumor cells

Binoj C Nair12, Sreeram Vallabhaneni1, Rajeshwar R Tekmal1 and Ratna K Vadlamudi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and CTRC at UT Health Science Center,7703 Floyd curl drive, San Antonio, Texas, 78229, USA

2 Department of Molecular Medicine, UT Health Science Center, 7703 Floyd curl drive, San Antonio, Texas, 78229, USA

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Breast Cancer Research 2011, 13:R80  doi:10.1186/bcr2929

Published: 11 August 2011



Current clinical strategies for treating hormonal breast cancer involve the use of anti-estrogens that block estrogen receptor (ER)α functions and aromatase inhibitors that decrease local and systemic estrogen production. Both of these strategies improve outcomes for ERα-positive breast cancer patients, however, development of therapy resistance remains a major clinical problem. Divergent molecular pathways have been described for this resistant phenotype and interestingly, the majority of downstream events in these resistance pathways converge upon the modulation of cell cycle regulatory proteins including aberrant activation of cyclin dependent kinase 2 (CDK2). In this study, we examined whether the CDK inhibitor roscovitine confers a tumor suppressive effect on therapy-resistant breast epithelial cells.


Using various in vitro and in vivo assays, we tested the effect of roscovitine on three hormonal therapy-resistant model cells: (a) MCF-7-TamR (acquired tamoxifen resistance model); (b) MCF-7-LTLTca (acquired letrozole resistance model); and (c) MCF-7-HER2 that exhibit tamoxifen resistance (ER-growth factor signaling cross talk model).


Hormonal therapy-resistant cells exhibited aberrant activation of the CDK2 pathway. Roscovitine at a dose of 20 μM significantly inhibited the cell proliferation rate and foci formation potential of all three therapy-resistant cells. The drug treatment substantially increased the proportion of cells in G2/M cell cycle phase with decreased CDK2 activity and promoted low cyclin D1 levels. Interestingly, roscovitine also preferentially down regulated the ERα isoform and ER-coregulators including AIB1 and PELP1. Results from xenograft studies further showed that roscovitine can attenuate growth of therapy-resistant tumors in vivo.


Roscovitine can reduce cell proliferation and survival of hormone therapy-resistant breast cancer cells. Our results support the emerging concept that inhibition of CDK2 activity has the potential to abrogate growth of hormonal therapy-resistant cells.