Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor upregulates ErbB2 expression on breast cancer cell lines and converts primary resistance to trastuzumab

Giuliana Cavalloni, Ivana Sarotto, Ymera Pignochino, Loretta Gammaitoni, Giorgia Migliardi, Luca Sgro, Wanda Piacibello, Mauro Risio, Massimo Aglietta, Francesco Leone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recombinant monoclonal antibody trastuzumab has antiproliferative effect on breast cancer (BC) cells with ErbB2 overexpression. We postulated that a mechanism able to modify ErbB2 expression enhances the antitumor effect of trastuzumab. We analyzed whether granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), widely used in adjuvant cancer therapy to alleviate chemotherapy-induced myelotoxicity, could influence ErbB2 expression in BC cells and patients. The expression of ErbB2 (Herceptest) was analyzed in four BC cell lines (BT474, SKBR3, ZR75.1, and T47D) treated with G-CSF and in five samples biopsies from BC patients subjected to G-CSF rescue after chemotherapy. The effects of G-CSF and trastuzumab alone or their combination on cell growth and apoptosis were investigated. G-CSF receptor was detected on all cell lines and BC patients. G-CSF induced upregulation of ErbB2 in SKBR3, ZR75, and T47D cells. This modulation was not associated with an increase in tumor cell growth in vitro. Trastuzumab alone inhibited colony formation in soft agar but did not induce apoptosis on BC cells with no or low ErbB2 genomic amplification. The combination of trastuzumab and G-CSF enhanced the inhibition of tumor colony formation and induced apoptosis on these cells. This effect was further increased by G-CSF pretreatment. Five of nine BC patients showed an increase of Herceptest score after G-CSF administration. G-CSF treatment increases ErbB2 expression in vitro and in vivo enhancing the activity of trastuzumab on BC cell lines inducing apoptosis of BC cells with low or no ErbB2 genomic amplification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-696
Number of pages8
JournalAnti-Cancer Drugs
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • Apoptosis
  • Breast cancer
  • Cell growth
  • Growth factors
  • Targeted therapies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


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