Defects in the DNA damage repair system result in increased genomic instability and have recently been implicated as being drivers of tumorigenesis in both familial and sporadic breast cancers. To maintain genomic integrity, cells have a DNA damage response (DDR) mechanism that functions to repair damaged DNA efficiently and commits cells to death if damage is irreparable. Failure of this mechanism results in genomic instability and cancer predisposition. Widespread chromosomal instability is a characteristic feature of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), making it difficult to decipher between genes that drive cancer development from those that play a bystander role. Little is known about what gives rise to the extensive genomic instability of TNBC, and presents a major deficit in our scientific and clinical knowledge.

Oncogene induced hyper-proliferation results in replication-associated double strand breaks (DSBs) that engage an Mre11-Rad50-Nbs1 complex-dependent DDR. Classically, the oncogene induced DDR is believed to suppress tumorigenesis due to downstream activation of p53. Using genetically engineered primary mammary epithelial cell models, we demonstrate p53-independent effects of the Mre11-dependent DDR in suppressing proliferation and DNA damage induced by diverse oncogenic drivers. Single cell whole genome sequencing in Her2/Neu expressing primary mammary epithelial cells reveals a landscape of stochastic copy number aberrations induced by oncogenic stress that becomes enriched for a genomic scar pattern of larger-size deletions in cells with Mre11 hypomorphism. We identify Mre11 pathway hypomorphism in a subset of basal-like breast cancers (BLBC), which confers vulnerability to specific DNA damaging agents and DDR inhibitors in murine models of p53-deficient BLBC. Thus, assessing the functional status of the Mre11-dependent DDR pathway in p53-mutant breast cancers may provide an opportunity for therapeutic exploitation.

Citation Format: Fagan-Solis KD, Simpson DA, Kapustina M, Martelotto L, Reis-Filho JS, Petrini JH, Gupta GP. A p53-independent DNA damage response that regulates breast cancer phenotypes [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2018 Dec 4-8; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(4 Suppl):Abstract nr P1-06-08.