β -Catenin and NF-κB co-activation triggered by TLR3 stimulation facilitates stem cell-like phenotypes in breast cancer

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Abstract:

Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for tumor initiation and progression. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are highly expressed in cancer cells and associated with poor prognosis. However, a linkage between CSCs and TLRs is unclear, and potential intervention strategies to prevent TLR stimulation-induced CSC formation and underlying mechanisms are lacking. Here, we demonstrate that stimulation of toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) promotes breast cancer cells toward a CSC phenotype in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, conventional NF-κB signaling pathway is not exclusively responsible for TLR3 activation-enriched CSCs. Intriguingly, simultaneous activation of both β-catenin and NF-κB signaling pathways, but neither alone, is required for the enhanced CSC phenotypes. We have further identified a small molecule cardamonin that can concurrently inhibit β-catenin and NF-κB signals. Cardamonin is capable of effectively abolishing TLR3 activation-enhanced CSC phenotypes in vitro and successfully controlling TLR3 stimulation-induced tumor growth in human breast cancer xenografts. These findings may provide a foundation for developing new strategies to prevent the induction of CSCs during cancer therapies.