Metastatic breast cancer carries a poor prognosis despite the success of newly targeted therapies and treatment options remain especially limited for the subtype of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Several signaling pathways, including NF-κB, are altered in TNBC. Given that ΙΚΚε behaves as an oncogene in breast cancer we hypothesized that IKKε regulates classical or alternative NF-κB signaling to control diverse oncogenic functions in TNBC. Vector expression and RNA interference were used to investigate the functional role of IKKε in triple-negative breast cancer cells. Viability, protein expression, NF-κB binding activity, invasion, anoikis, and spheroid formation were examined in cells expressing high or low levels of IKKε in conjunction with alternative NF-κB p52 RNA interference or MEK inhibition. Our data show that p52 protein levels and binding activity are inversely proportional to ΙΚΚε. Moreover, knockdown of IKKε leads to increased expression of p52 and the p52-regulated gene CXCL1. This interaction was confirmed by CHiP-PCR experiments showing increased binding of p52 in the CXCL1 promoter of cells with IKKε knockdown relative to control. We further found that IKKε and MEK were required for growth in anchorage supportive conditions whereas p52 was required in anchorage resistant conditions. Western blots confirm diminished IKKε expression and enhanced p52 processing in anchorage resistant conditions relative to anchorage supportive conditions. In this model, IKKε and MEK cooperate to support growth of cancer cells in the attached, anchored environment, whereas p52 is required for growth in unattached 3-D environment. These studies reveal novel information about the role of IKKε in TNBC and highlight the adaptability of NF-κB signaling in maintaining cancer cell survival under different growth conditions. Current studies are underway to clarify the mechanism of IKKε regulation of p52. A better understanding of the diversity of NF-κB signaling may ultimately improve the development of novel therapeutic regimens for TNBC.

Citation Format: Carrie D. House, Valentina Grajales, Michelle Ozaki, Elizabeth Jordan, Helmae Wubneh, Danielle Kimble, Marianne Kim, Christina M. Annunziata. IKK-epsilon supports anchorage independent growth via alternative NF-kB signaling in triple-negative breast cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018; 2018 Apr 14-18; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2018;78(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 5470.