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Tumor suppressor PLK2 may serve as a biomarker in triple-negative breast cancer for improved response to PLK1 therapeutics

By Yang Gao, Elena B Kabotyanski, Elizabeth Villegas, Jonathan H. Shepherd, Deanna Acosta, Clark Hamor, Tingting Sun, Celina Montemayor-Garcia, Xiaping He, Lacey E Dobrolecki, Thomas F Westbrook, Michael T Lewis, Susan G Hilsenbeck, Xiang Zhang, Charles M. Perou, Jeffrey M Rosen

Posted 16 Jun 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.16.448722

Polo-like kinase (PLK) family members play important roles in cell cycle regulation. The founding member PLK1 is oncogenic and preclinically validated as a cancer therapeutic target. Paradoxically, PLK2 (chromosome 5q11.2) is frequently deleted in human breast cancers, preferentially in basal-like and triple-negative breast cancer subtypes. Here, we found that PLK2 was tumor suppressive in breast cancer and knockdown of PLK1 rescued phenotypes induced by PLK2-loss both in vitro and in vivo. We also demonstrated that PLK2 directly interacted with PLK1 at prometaphase and that mutations in the kinase domain of PLK2, but not polo-box binding domains, changed their interaction pattern. Furthermore, treatment of syngeneic transplantation mouse tumor models and patient-derived xenografts using the PLK1 inhibitor volasertib alone, or in combination with carboplatin, indicated that PLK2-low breast tumors had a significantly better response to these drugs. Re-expression of PLK2 in an inducible PLK2-null mouse model reduced the therapeutic efficacy of volasertib. Taken together, our data suggest PLK2 loss may serve as a biomarker to predict response to PLK1 therapeutics, alone and in combination with chemotherapy.

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