Trastuzumab-induced upregulation of a protein set in extracellular vesicles emitted by ErbB2-positive breast cancer cells correlates with their trastuzumab sensitivity

Arik Durcker, Byong Hoon Yoo, Iman Aftab Khan, Dongsic Choi, Laura Montermini, Xiaoyang Liu, Sanja Jovanovic, Tallal Younis, Kirill V. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: ErbB2/HER2 oncoprotein often drives breast cancers (BCs) which are treated with the anti-ErbB2 antibody trastuzumab. The efficacy of trastuzumab-based metastatic BC therapies is routinely assessed by imaging studies. Trastuzumab typically becomes ineffective in the case of this disease and is then replaced by other drugs. Biomarkers of BC trastuzumab response could allow imaging studies and the switch to other drugs to occur earlier than is now possible. Moreover, bone-only BC metastases can be hard to measure, and biomarkers of their trastuzumab response could facilitate further treatment decisions. Such biomarkers are presently unavailable. In this study, we searched for proteins whose levels in BC cell-emitted extracellular vesicles (EVs) potentially correlate with BC trastuzumab sensitivity. Methods: We isolated EVs from cultured trastuzumab-sensitive and trastuzumab-resistant human BC cells before and after trastuzumab treatment and characterized these EVs by nanoparticle tracking analysis and electron microscopy. We found previously that ErbB2 drives BC by downregulating a pro-Apoptotic protein PERP. We now tested whether trastuzumab-induced PERP upregulation in EVs emitted by cultured human BC cells correlates with their trastuzumab sensitivity. We also used mass spectrometry to search for additional proteins whose levels in such EVs reflect BC cell trastuzumab sensitivity. Once we identified proteins whose EV levels correlate with this sensitivity in culture, we explored the feasibility of testing whether their levels in the blood EVs of trastuzumab-Treated metastatic BC patients correlate with patients' response to trastuzumab-based treatments. Results: We found that neither trastuzumab nor acquisition of trastuzumab resistance by BC cells affects the size or morphology of EVs emitted by cultured BC cells. We established that EV levels of proteins PERP, GNAS2, GNA13, ITB1, and RAB10 correlate with BC cell trastuzumab response. Moreover, these proteins were upregulated during trastuzumab-based therapies in the blood EVs of a pilot cohort of metastatic BC patients that benefited from these therapies but not in those derived from patients that failed such treatments. Conclusions: Upregulation of a protein set in EVs derived from cultured breast tumor cells correlates with tumor cell trastuzumab sensitivity. It is feasible to further evaluate these proteins as biomarkers of metastatic BC trastuzumab response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 6 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarkers
  • Breast cancer
  • ErbB2
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • HER2
  • Trastuzumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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