Journal of Molecular Medicine

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 151–164 | Cite as

Ganetespib blocks HIF-1 activity and inhibits tumor growth, vascularization, stem cell maintenance, invasion, and metastasis in orthotopic mouse models of triple-negative breast cancer

  • Lisha Xiang
  • Daniele M. Gilkes
  • Pallavi Chaturvedi
  • Weibo Luo
  • Hongxia Hu
  • Naoharu Takano
  • Houjie Liang
  • Gregg L. SemenzaEmail author
Original Article


Targeted therapy against triple-negative breast cancers, which lack expression of the estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 receptors, is not available and the overall response to cytotoxic chemotherapy is poor. One of the molecular hallmarks of triple-negative breast cancers is increased expression of genes that are transcriptionally activated by hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), which are implicated in many critical aspects of cancer progression including metabolism, angiogenesis, invasion, metastasis, and stem cell maintenance. Ganetespib is a second-generation inhibitor of heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), a molecular chaperone that is essential for the stability and function of multiple client proteins in cancer cells including HIF-1α. In this study, human MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-435 triple-negative breast cancer cells were injected into the mammary fat pad of immunodeficient mice that received weekly intravenous injections of ganetespib or vehicle following the development of palpable tumors. Ganetespib treatment markedly impaired primary tumor growth and vascularization, and eliminated local tissue invasion and distant metastasis to regional lymph nodes and lungs. Ganetespib treatment also significantly reduced the number of Aldefluor-positive cancer stem cells in the primary tumor. Primary tumors of ganetespib-treated mice had significantly reduced levels of HIF-1α (but not HIF-2α) protein and of HIF-1 target gene mRNAs encoding proteins that play key roles in angiogenesis, metabolism, invasion, and metastasis, thereby providing a molecular basis for observed effects of the drug on the growth and metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer.

Key Messages

  • Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) respond poorly to available chemotherapy.

  • TNBCs overexpress genes regulated by hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs).

  • Ganetespib induces degradation of HSP90 client proteins, including HIF-1α.

  • Ganetespib inhibited TNBC orthotopic tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis.

  • Ganetespib inhibited expression of HIF-1 target genes involved in TNBC progression.


Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 Ganetespib Hsp90 inhibitor Breast cancer metastasis Cancer stem cell 



We thank Karen Padgett (Novus Biologicals) for providing antibodies against HIF-1β, HIF-2α, Ki67, and P4HA1. This work was supported in part by a sponsored research agreement with Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp., which provided ganetespib and vehicle but had no involvement in the experimental design, data analysis, or manuscript preparation.

Disclosure statement

G.L.S. is the C. Michael Armstrong Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an American Cancer Society Research Professor. L.X., D.M.G., and W.L. were supported by grants from the Chinese Scholarship Council, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and National Cancer Institute (K99-CA168746), respectively. All authors confirm that there is no conflict of interest associated with this publication.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisha Xiang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Daniele M. Gilkes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pallavi Chaturvedi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Weibo Luo
    • 1
    • 3
  • Hongxia Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Naoharu Takano
    • 1
    • 2
  • Houjie Liang
    • 5
  • Gregg L. Semenza
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Vascular ProgramInstitute for Cell EngineeringBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological ChemistryJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Pediatrics, Oncology, Medicine, and Radiation OncologyJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.Department of Oncology and Southwest Cancer CenterSouthwest Hospital, Third Military Medical UniversityChongqingChina

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