Neuromedin U: A candidate biomarker and therapeutic target to predict and overcome resistance to HER-tyrosine kinase inhibitors

Sweta Rani, Claire Corcoran, Liam Shiels, Serena Germano, Susan Breslin, Stephen Madden, Martina S. McDermott, Brigid C. Browne, Norma O'Donovan, John Crown, Martina Gogarty, Annette T. Byrne, Lorraine O'Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Intrinsic and acquired resistance to HER-targeting drugs occurs in a significant proportion of HER2-over-expressing breast cancers. Thus, there remains a need to identify predictive biomarkers that could improve patient selection and circumvent these types of drug resistance. Here, we report the identification of neuromedin U (NmU) as an extracellular biomarker in cells resistant to HER-targeted drugs. NmU overexpression occurred in cells with acquired or innate resistance to lapatinib, trastuzumab, neratinib, and afatinib, all of which displayed a similar trend upon short-term exposure, suggesting NmU induction may be an early response. An analysis of 3,489 cases of breast cancer showed NmU to be associated with poor patient outcome, particularly those with HER2-overexpressing tumors independent of established prognostic indicators. Ectopic overexpression of NmU in drug-sensitive cells conferred resistance to all HER-targeting drugs, whereas RNAi-mediated attenuation sensitized cells exhibiting acquired or innate drug resistance. Mechanistic investigations suggested that NmU acted through HSP27 as partner protein to stabilize HER2 protein levels. We also obtained evidence of functional NmUreceptors on HER2-overexpressing cells, with the addition of exogenous NmUeliciting an elevation in HER2 and EGFR expression along with drug resistance. Finally, we found that NmU seemed to function in cell motility, invasion, and anoikis resistance. In vivo studies revealed that NmU attenuation impaired tumor growth and metastasis. Taken together, our results defined NmU as a candidate drug response biomarker for HER2- overexpressing cancers and as a candidate therapeutic target to limit metastatic progression and improve the efficacy of HER-targeted drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3821-3833
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Research
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


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