Purpose: Pregnancy increases breast cancer risk for all women for at least 5 years after parturition. During weaning and involution, the breast microenvironment becomes tumor promotional. Exosomes provide cell–cell communication during physiologic processes such as lactation, but also in breast cancer. We determined whether molecules in milk exosomes from healthy lactating women modulate the development and progression of breast cancer.
Experimental Design: Thirteen nursing women provided three (transitional, mature, and wean) milk samples. Exosomes were extracted and MCF7 and MCF10A breast cells labeled. The expression of six proteins linked to breast cancer was measured. On the basis of the findings, TGFβ2 concentration in exosome samples was measured, breast cells incubated with the exosomes and effect (epithelial–mesenchymal transition, EMT) on EMT-related proteins [E-cadherin, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), filamentous (F)-actin and vimentin] measured.
Results: Human milk exosomes entered benign and malignant breast cells. The greatest change in wean milk protein was in TGFβ2 (P = 0.01). Exosomes with a high (but not low) level of TGFβ2 led to EMT in both cancer and benign cells, based on (i) change in cell morphology, actin cytoskeleton, and loss of cell–cell junction structure and (ii) increased α-SMA and vimentin and decreased E-cadherin.
Conclusions: TGFβ2 is significantly upregulated in breast milk exosomes during weaning/early involution. Breast milk exosomes containing high levels of TGFβ2 induce changes in both benign and malignant breast epithelial cells, consistent with the development and progression of breast cancer, suggesting a role for high TGFβ2-expressing breast milk exosomes in influencing breast cancer risk. Clin Cancer Res; 1–8. ©2016 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Clinical Cancer Research Online (http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received January 15, 2016.
- Revision received March 10, 2016.
- Accepted March 27, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.