Triple negative, basal-like breast cancer is highly aggressive and has a poor prognosis. The molecular mechanisms that drive its progression are elusive and no molecular target has been identified for its prevention or treatment. Here, we demonstrate that triple negative human breast cancer cells and clinical samples show an attenuated transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) signaling. Therefore, we developed a series of isogenic basal-like human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) with altered TGF-β sensitivity and different malignancy, resembling a full spectrum of basal-like breast carcinogenesis, and determined the molecular mechanisms that contribute to oncogene-induced transformation of basal-like HMECs when TGF-β signaling is attenuated. We found that expression of a dominant-negative RII (DNRII) receptor of TGF-β abrogated autocrine TGF-β signaling in telomerase-immortalized HMECs and suppressed H-ras-V12-induced senescence-like growth arrest (SLGA). Furthermore, co-expression of DNRII and H-ras-V12 rendered HMECs to become highly tumorigenic and metastatic in vivo in comparison with H-ras-V12-transformed HMECs that spontaneously escaped H-ras-V12-induced SLGA. By using microarray analysis, we found that p21 is the major player mediating Ras-induce SLGA and attenuated or loss of p21 expression contributed to the escape from SLGA when autocrine TGF-β signaling is blocked in HMECs. Furthermore, knockdown of p21 also suppressed H-ras-V12-induced SLGA. Our results identifies that autocrine TGF-β signaling is an integral part of cellular antitransformation network by suppressing the expression of a host of genes including p21-regulated genes that mediate oncogene-induced transformation in basal-like breast cancer.

Citation Information: Cancer Res 2011;71(24 Suppl):Abstract nr P2-03-05.