Environmental Arsenic in the Subtype Specification of Breast Cancer

Project: Research project

Project Details


Environmental inorganic arsenic (iAs) is a class I human carcinogen with established roles in promoting skin, colon, bladder and kidney cancers. The role of iAs as a breast carcinogen is less established although numerous studies have indicated that in cell cultures iAs promotes the specification of breast cancer cells towards phenotypes that are estrogen receptor negative which are more lethal as well as more challenging to treat. The molecular mechanisms involved remain unknown. Our laboratory found that iAs promotes alterations in the metabolism of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) via inhibiting the tumor suppressor Sirtuin 3 which leads to the accumulation of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) in an acetylated form (MnSOD-Ac), increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the activation of hypoxia induced factor 2α (HIF2α). The activation of HIF2α is a well-established mechanism of stem cell reprogramming that has also been implicated in metastatic recurrence as well as treatment failure in women with breast cancer. Hence, we propose that chronic iAs exposure is a risk factor for the development of ER(-) breast cancer via a mechanism that involves MnSOD acetylation and mitochondrial ROS. By extension, we propose that the MnSOD-Ac/HIF2α molecular signature may identify women with breast cancer that have been exposed to iAs and required personalized care for they are at increased risk of failing standard therapeutics. Also, that the MnSOD-Ac/HIF2α may be targeted to improve therapy in these women. Our aims are as follows: (1) determine if MnSOD-Ac reprograms tumor cell to stem-like (more aggressive) phenotypes associated with chemoresistance and if targeting MnSOD-Ac reverses this effect. (2) determine if low level iAs exposure in the drinking water transforms ER+ in situ xenograph tumors developing in mice towards more pervasive phenotypes. (3) determine if there is an association between exposure to iAs and breast cancer with a MnSOD-Ac, or MnSOD-ROS-HIF2α molecular signature as well as if iAs exposure promotes chemoresistance or a prevalence of aggressive ER(-) phenotypes.
Effective start/end date9/7/208/31/23


  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (5R01ES028149-05)


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