Identification of protein kinase inhibitors to reprogram breast cancer cells

Jie Yuan, Fan Zhang, Meng You, Qin Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Direct reversion of cancers into normal-like tissues is an ideal strategy for cancer treatment. Recent reports have showed that defined transcription factors can induce reprogramming of cancer cells into pluripotent stem cells, supporting this notion. Here, we have developed a reprogramming method that uses a conceptually unique strategy for breast cancer cell treatment. We have screened a kinase inhibitor library and found that Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase inhibitors can substitute for all transcription factors to be sufficient to reprogram breast cancer cells into progenitor cells. Furthermore, ROCK–mTOR inhibitors could reprogram breast cancer cells to another terminal lineage-adipogenic cells. Genome-wide transcriptional analysis shows that the induced fat-like cells have a profile different from breast cancer cells and similar to that of normal adipocytes. In vitro and in vivo tumorigenesis assays have shown that induced fat-like cells lose proliferation and tumorigenicity. Moreover, reprogramming treatment with ROCK–mTOR inhibitors prevents breast cancer local recurrence in mice. Currently, ROCK–mTOR inhibitors are already used as antitumor drugs in patients, thus, this reprogramming strategy has significant potential to move rapidly toward clinical trials for breast cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number915
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


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