No special-type breast cancer [NST; commonly known as invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)] and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) are the two major histological subtypes of breast cancer with significant differences in clinicopathological and molecular characteristics. The defining pathognomonic feature of ILC is loss of cellular adhesion protein, E-cadherin (CDH1). We have previously shown that E-cadherin functions as a negative regulator of the IGF1R and propose that E-cadherin loss in ILC sensitizes cells to growth factor signaling that thus alters their sensitivity to growth factor–signaling inhibitors and their downstream activators. To investigate this potential therapeutic vulnerability, we generated CRISPR-mediated CDH1 knockout (CDH1 KO) IDC cell lines (MCF7, T47D, and ZR75.1) to uncover the mechanism by which loss of E-cadherin results in IGF pathway activation. CDH1 KO cells demonstrated enhanced invasion and migration that was further elevated in response to IGF1, serum and collagen I. CDH1 KO cells exhibited increased sensitivity to IGF resulting in elevated downstream signaling. Despite minimal differences in membranous IGF1R levels between wild-type (WT) and CDH1 KO cells, significantly higher ligand–receptor interaction was observed in the CDH1 KO cells, potentially conferring enhanced downstream signaling activation. Critically, increased sensitivity to IGF1R, PI3K, Akt, and MEK inhibitors was observed in CDH1 KO cells and ILC patient-derived organoids.


Overall, this suggests that these targets require further exploration in ILC treatment and that CDH1 loss may be exploited as a biomarker of response for patient stratification.

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