Elimination of the chemotherapy resistant subpopulation of 4T1 mouse breast cancer by haploidentical NK cells cures the vast majority of mice

Peter W. H. Frings, Catharina H. M. J. Van Elssen, Lotte Wieten, Catarina Matos, Pierre S. J. G. Hupperets, Harry C. Schouten, Gerard M. J. Bos, Michel van Gelder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Metastatic breast cancer is currently incurable despite initial responsiveness, assumingly due to the presence of chemoresistant subpopulations that can be characterized as label retaining cells (LRC). In the 4T1 mouse breast cancer model, we previously achieved cure after Cyclophosphamide and Total Body Irradiation (CY + TBI) followed by haploidentical bone marrow and spleen transplantation (BMSPLT). CY + TBI without transplantation induced only transient impaired tumor growth indicating a critical role of donor immune cells. As it remained unknown if the 4T1 model resembles human disease with respect to the presence of subpopulations of chemoresistant LRC, we now demonstrate this is indeed the case. Chemoresistance of 4T1 LRC was demonstrated by in vitro co-incubation of fluorescently labeled 4T1 cells in limiting dilution with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin or cisplatinum, after which only LRC containing colonies remained. LRC also remain in vivo after treatment with CY + TBI. Succeeding experiments set up to identify the haploidentical effector cell responsible for cure and, therefore, for the elimination of chemoresistant LRC designate donor NK cells crucial for the anti-tumor effect. NK cell depletion of the haploidentical graft fully abrogated the anti-tumor effect. Increased disease-free survival retained after transplantation of haploidentical bone marrow and NK cell-enriched spleen cell grafts, even in the absence of donor T-cells or of donor bone marrow. Tumor growth analysis indicates the anti-tumor effect being immediate (days). Based on these data, it is worthwhile to explore alloreactive adoptive NK cell therapy as consolidation for patients with metastasized breast cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-781
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Breast cancer
  • 4T1
  • Chemoresistant
  • Label retaining cell
  • Haploidentical
  • NK cell

Cite this