Evaluating the antitumor activity of sphingosine-1-phosphate against human triple-negative breast cancer cells with basal-like morphology


Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is an important sphingolipid metabolite that regulates a wide range of physiological and pathophysiological processes. Our previous studies show that S1P selectively induces cell apoptosis in human breast cancer luminal A subtype cell line MCF7. In addition, S1P exhibits synergistic effects with chemotherapy drugs against both MCF7 and luminal B subtype cell line MDA-MB-361 at concentration in the high nM to low μM range. In the current study, we evaluated the effect of S1P on proliferation, apoptosis and cytotoxicity towards a panel of nine triple-negative breast cancer with basal-like morphology (TNBC-BL) cell lines (HCC1599, HCC1937, HCC1143, MDA-MB-468, HCC38, HCC70, HCC1806, HCC1187 and DU4475) in the same concentration range. S1P exhibited mild to moderate effects (<20% increase comparted to control) towards the TNBC-BL cell lines except HCC38, HCC70 and HCC1806. Furthermore, it increased cell apoptosis by ~15–20% in all the cell lines compared to the control, and elicited moderate to strong cytotoxic effect towards all cell lines except MDA-MB-468 and HCC1806. However, no synergistic/additive effect was observed between S1P and chemotherapy drug docetaxel for any TNBC-BL cell line.

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We would like to thank Dr. Jane Alcorn, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, for her valuable suggestions.


The work was supported in part by a President’s NSERC grant from the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK, Canada) and a research group grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (Saskatoon, SK, Canada).

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This research work was designed by Jian Yang and carried out by Omar Abuhussein.

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Correspondence to Jian Yang.

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Abuhussein, O., Yang, J. Evaluating the antitumor activity of sphingosine-1-phosphate against human triple-negative breast cancer cells with basal-like morphology. Invest New Drugs 38, 1316–1325 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10637-020-00909-2

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  • Sphingosine-1-phosphate
  • Triple-negative breast cancer with basal-like morphology (TNBC-BL)
  • Cell proliferation
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Cell apoptosis
  • Combination therapy