Discovery and Pharmacological Evaluation of STEAP4 as a Novel Target for HER2 Overexpressing Breast Cancer

Ioanna Maria Orfanou, Orestis Argyros, Andreas Papapetropoulos, Sofia Tseleni-Balafouta, Konstantinos Vougas, Constantin Tamvakopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Breast cancer (BC) is a highly heterogeneous disease encompassing multiple subtypes with different molecular and histopathological features, disease prognosis, and therapeutic responses. Among these, the Triple Negative BC form (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype with poor prognosis and therapeutic outcome. With respect to HER2 overexpressing BC, although advanced targeted therapies have improved the survival of patients, disease relapse and metastasis remains a challenge for therapeutic efficacy. In this study the aim was to identify key membrane-associated proteins which are overexpressed in these aggressive BC subtypes and can serve as potential biomarkers or drug targets. We leveraged on the development of a membrane enrichment protocol in combination with the global profiling GeLC-MS/MS technique, and compared the proteomic profiles of a HER2 overexpressing (HCC-1954) and a TNBC (MDA-MB-231) cell line with that of a benign control breast cell line (MCF-10A). An average of 2300 proteins were identified from each cell line, of which approximately 600 were membrane-associated proteins. Our global proteomic methodology in tandem with invigoration by Western blot and Immunofluorescence analysis, readily detected several previously-established BC receptors like HER2 and EPHA2, but importantly STEAP4 and CD97 emerged as novel potential candidate markers. This is the first time that the mitochondrial iron reductase STEAP4 protein up-regulation is linked to BC (HER2+ subtype), while for CD97, its role in BC has been previously described, but never before by a global proteomic technology in TNBC. STEAP4 was selected for further detailed evaluation by the employment of Immunohistochemical analysis of BC xenografts and clinical tissue microarray studies. Results showed that STEAP4 expression was evident only in malignant breast tissues whereas all the benign breast cases had no detectable levels. A functional role of STEAP4 intervention was established in HER2 overexpressing BC by pharmacological studies, where blockage of the STEAP4 pathway with an iron chelator (Deferiprone) in combination with the HER2 inhibitor Lapatinib led to a significant reduction in cell growth in vitro. Furthermore, siRNA mediated knockdown of STEAP4 also suppressed cell proliferation and enhanced the inhibition of Lapatinib in HER2 overexpressing BC, confirming its potential oncogenic role in BC. In conclusion, STEAP4 may represent a novel BC related biomarker and a potential pharmacological target for the treatment of HER2 overexpressing BC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number608201
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - Mar 26 2021


  • GeLC-MS/MS proteomics
  • HER2+ breast cancer
  • STEAP4
  • co-administration schemes
  • membrane proteins
  • novel pharmacological targets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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