Metformin overcomes resistance to cisplatin in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells by targeting RAD51

Jung Ok Lee, Min Ju Kang, Won Seok Byun, Shin Ae Kim, Il Hyeok Seo, Jeong Ah Han, Ji Wook Moon, Ji Hae Kim, Su Jin Kim, Eun Jung Lee, Serk In Park, Sun Hwa Park, Hyeon Soo Kim

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90 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Chemotherapy is a standard therapeutic regimen to treat triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC); however, chemotherapy alone does not result in significant improvement and often leads to drug resistance in patients. In contrast, combination therapy has proven to be an effective strategy for TNBC treatment. Whether metformin enhances the anticancer effects of cisplatin and prevents cisplatin resistance in TNBC cells has not been reported. Methods: Cell viability, wounding healing, and invasion assays were performed on Hs 578T and MDA-MB-231 human TNBC cell lines to demonstrate the anticancer effects of combined cisplatin and metformin treatment compared to treatment with cisplatin alone. Western blotting and immunofluorescence were used to determine the expression of RAD51 and gamma-H2AX. In an in vivo 4T1 murine breast cancer model, a synergistic anticancer effect of metformin and cisplatin was observed. Results: Cisplatin combined with metformin decreased cell viability and metastatic effect more than cisplatin alone. Metformin suppressed cisplatin-mediated RAD51 upregulation by decreasing RAD51 protein stability and increasing its ubiquitination. In contrast, cisplatin increased RAD51 expression in an ERK-dependent manner. In addition, metformin also increased cisplatin-induced phosphorylation of γ-H2AX. Overexpression of RAD51 blocked the metformin-induced inhibition of cell migration and invasion, while RAD51 knockdown enhanced cisplatin activity. Moreover, the combination of metformin and cisplatin exhibited a synergistic anticancer effect in an orthotopic murine model of 4T1 breast cancer in vivo. Conclusions: Metformin enhances anticancer effect of cisplatin by downregulating RAD51 expression, which represents a novel therapeutic target in TNBC management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Oct 22

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the BK21 Plus Program of the Ministry of Education of Korea (H. S. K., S. I. P., and J.O.L), the National Research Foundation of Korea (Grant No. 2018R1E1A2A02085743 to H. S. K., 2018R1D1A1B07050329 to S.I.P., and 2016R1C1B1013398 to J.O.L.), and the National Cancer Center of Korea (No. HA17C0040 to S.I.P.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).


  • Cisplatin resistance
  • Combination therapy
  • Metformin
  • RAD51
  • TNBC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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