Antineoplastic effects of selective CDK9 inhibition with atuveciclib on cancer stem-like cells in triple-negative breast cancer

Daphne Brisard, Frank Eckerdt, Lindsey A. Marsh, Gavin T. Blyth, Sarika Jain, Massimo Cristofanilli, Dai Horiuchi, Leonidas C. Platanias*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) are limited due to the lack of efficient targeted therapies, frequently resulting in recurrence and metastatic disease. Accumulating evidence suggests that a small population of cancer stem-like cells (CSLCs) is responsible for tumor recurrence and therapy resistance. Here we investigated the role of cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) in TNBC. Using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data we found high-CDK9 expression correlates with worse overall survival in TNBC patients. Pharmacologic inhibition of CDK9 with atuveciclib in high-CDK9 expressing TNBC cell lines reduced expression of CDK9 targets MYC and MCL1 and decreased cell proliferation and survival. Importantly, atuveciclib inhibited the growth of mammospheres and reduced the percentage of CD24 low /CD44 high cells, indicating disruption of breast CSLCs (BCSLCs). Furthermore, atuveciclib impaired 3D invasion of tumorspheres suggesting inhibition of both invasion and metastatic potential. Finally, atuveciclib enhanced the antineoplastic effects of Cisplatin and promoted inhibitory effects on BCSLCs grown as mammospheres. Together, these findings suggest CDK9 as a potential therapeutic target in aggressive forms of CDK9-high TNBC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37305-37318
Number of pages14
Issue number99
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018



  • Atuveciclib
  • CDK9
  • Cancer stem-like cells
  • MYC
  • Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

Cite this