Molecular targeting of the Aurora-A/SMAD5 oncogenic axis restores chemosensitivity in human breast cancer cells

Mateusz Opyrchal, Gil Malgorzata, Jeffrey L. Salisbury, Mathew P. Goetz, Vera Suman, Amy Degnim, James McCubrey, Tufia Haddad, Ianko Iankov, Chenye B. Kurokawa, Nicole Shumacher, James N. Ingle, Evanthia Galanis, Antonino B. D'Assoro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Although the majority of breast cancers initially respond to the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapeutic agents, most breast cancer patients experience tumor relapse and ultimately die because of drug resistance. Breast cancer cells undergoing epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) acquire a CD44+/CD24-/ ALDH1+ cancer stem cell-like phenotype characterized by an increased capacity for tumor self-renewal, intrinsic drug resistance and high proclivity to develop distant metastases. We uncovered in human breast tumor xenografts a novel non-mitotic role of Aurora-A kinase in promoting breast cancer metastases through activation of EMT and expansion of breast tumor initiating cells (BTICs). In this study we characterized the role of the Aurora-A/SMAD5 oncogenic axis in the induction of chemoresistance. Breast cancer cells overexpressing Aurora-A showed resistance to conventional chemotherapeutic agents, while treatment with alisertib, a selective Aurora-A kinase inhibitor, restored chemosensitivity. Significantly, SMAD5 expression was required to induce chemoresistance and maintain a breast cancer stem cell-like phenotype, indicating that the Aurora-A/SMAD5 oncogenic axis promotes chemoresistance through activation of stemness signaling. Taken together, these findings identified a novel mechanism of drug resistance through aberrant activation of the non-canonical Aurora-A/SMAD5 oncogenic axis in breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91803-91816
Number of pages14
Issue number53
StatePublished - 2017


  • Breast cancer
  • Chemoresistance
  • EMT
  • Stemness
  • Tumor progrression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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