Thermotherapy has demonstrated a potential to be an effective non-surgical technique to treat breast cancer. Despite its advantages, including low toxicity and high repeatability, thermotherapy is typically required to be applied in combination with other treatments since the residual tumor cells that survive after hyperthermal treatment often cause recurrence. In this study, we confirmed that breast cancer cells tolerate temperature of up to 47 °C by synthesizing a large amount of heat shock proteins. Further changes in the molecular properties of the heat-exposed cells were investigated using western blotting, quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, and immunocytochemistry. We found that low-temperature hyperthermia promoted epithelial-to-mesenchymal-like transition (EMT), as observed by the increased mesenchymal marker expression levels while decreasing epithelial markers. Moreover, cell morphology changed from cobblestone-like to a more spindle-like appearance, in addition to significantly enhanced cell motility upon heat treatment. These results all support that sub-lethal hyperthermal stress induces EMT. In addition, we examined changes in the chemo-sensitivity of the heat-treated cells. Addition of a chemo-drugs caused increased cytotoxicity of the heat-treated cells compared to the cells that were not co-treated with heat. Our study demonstrates that thermotherapy alone may cause undesirable EMT, which could be well overcome through a synergistic effect when applied with chemotherapy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was partially supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant # DMR-1409161/1741560, awarded to SH.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Chemical Engineering(all)