Within the subtypes of breast cancer, those identified as triple negative for expression of estrogen receptor α (ESR1), progesterone receptor (PR) and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2), account for 10–20% of breast cancers, yet result in 30% of global breast cancer-associated deaths. Thus, it is critical to develop more targeted and efficacious therapies that also demonstrate less side effects. Selenium, an essential dietary supplement, is incorporated as selenocysteine (Sec) in vivo into human selenoproteins, some of which exist as anti-oxidant enzymes and are of importance to human health. Studies have also shown that selenium compounds hinder cancer cell growth and induce apoptosis in cancer cell culture models. The focus of this study was to investigate whether selenium-antibody conjugates could be effective against triple negative breast cancer cell lines using clinically relevant, antibody therapies targeted for high expressing breast cancers and whether selenium cytotoxicity was attenuated in normal breast epithelial cells. To that end, the humanized monoclonal IgG1 antibodies, Bevacizumab and Trastuzumab were conjugated with redox selenium to form Selenobevacizumab and Selenotrastuzumab and tested against the triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cell lines MDA-MB-468 and MDA-MB-231 as well as a normal, immortalized, human mammary epithelial cell line, HME50-5E. VEGF and HER2 protein expression were assessed by Western. Although expression levels of HER2 were low or absent in all test cells, our results showed that Selenobevacizumab and Selenotrastuzumab produced superoxide (O2•
−) anions in the presence of glutathione (GSH) and this was confirmed by a dihydroethidium (DHE) assay. Interestingly, superoxide was not elevated within HME50-5E cells assessed by DHE. The cytotoxicity of selenite and the selenium immunoconjugates towards triple negative cells compared to HME-50E cells was performed in a time and dose-dependent manner as measured by Trypan Blue exclusion, MTT assay and Annexin V assays. Selenobevacizumab and Selenotrastuzumab were shown to arrest the cancer cell growth but not the HME50-5E cells. These results suggest that selenium-induced toxicity may be effective in treating TNBC cells by exploiting different immunotherapeutic approaches potentially reducing the debilitating side effects associated with current TNBC anticancer drugs. Thus, clinically relevant, targeting antibody therapies may be repurposed for TNBC treatment by attachment of redox selenium.
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