INHBA is a mediator of aggressive tumor behavior in HER2+ basal breast cancer

Moqing Liu, Rebecca Smith, Tiera Liby, Kami Chiotti, Claudia S. López, James E. Korkola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Resistance to HER2-targeted therapeutics remains a significant clinical problem in HER2+ breast cancer patients with advanced disease. This may be particularly true for HER2+ patients with basal subtype disease, as recent evidence suggests they receive limited benefit from standard of care HER2-targeted therapies. Identification of drivers of resistance and aggressive disease that can be targeted clinically has the potential to impact patient outcomes. Methods: We performed siRNA knockdown screens of genes differentially expressed between lapatinib-responsive and -resistant HER2+ breast cancer cells, which corresponded largely to luminal versus basal subtypes. We then validated hits in 2-d and 3-d cell culture systems. Results: Knockdown of one of the genes, INHBA, significantly slowed growth and increased sensitivity to lapatinib in multiple basal HER2+ cell lines in both 2-d and 3-d cultures, but had no effect in luminal HER2+ cells. Loss of INHBA altered metabolism, eliciting a shift from glycolytic to oxidative phosphorylative metabolism, which was also associated with a decrease in tumor invasiveness. Analysis of breast cancer datasets showed that patients with HER2+ breast cancer and high levels of INHBA expression had worse outcomes than patients with low levels of INHBA expression. Conclusions: Our data suggest that INHBA is associated with aggressiveness of the basal subtype of HER2+ tumors, resulting in poor response to HER2-targeted therapy and an invasive phenotype. We hypothesize that targeting this pathway could be an effective therapeutic strategy to reduce invasiveness of tumor cells and to improve therapeutic response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Basal subtype
  • HER2+ breast cancer
  • Lapatinib
  • Resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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