Background: Breast cancer treatment is tailored to the specific cancer subtype. Often, systemic treatment is given prior to surgery. Chemotherapy induces significant endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-mediated cell death and upregulation of 78-kDa glucose-regulated protein (GRP78). We hypothesized that chemotherapy induces ER stress not only in the tumor tissue but also in immune cells, which may affect the response to anti-cancer treatment. Methods: We determined the surface expression of GRP78 on 15 different peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) subpopulations in 20 breast cancer patients at three time points of the neoadjuvant treatment, i.e., at baseline, after anthracycline treatment, and after taxanes treatment. For this purpose, we performed flow cytometric analyses and analyzed the data using ANOVA and the Tukey test. Serum cytokine levels were also evaluated, and their levels were correlated with response to treatment using the t-test after log transformation and Mann-Whitney U Wilcoxon W test. Results: A significant increase in GRP78 expression in PBMCs was documented during the taxane phase, only in patients who achieved pathological complete response (pCR). GRP78-positive clones correlated with increased serum levels of interferon gamma (IFNγ). Conclusions: The presence of GRP78-positive clones in certain PBMC subpopulations in pCR patients suggests a dynamic interaction between ER stress and immune responsiveness. The correlation of GRP78-positive clones with increased levels of IFNγsupports the idea that GRP78 expression in PBMCs might serve as a new predictive marker to identify the possible benefits of taxanes in the neoadjuvant setting.
- Breast cancer
- GRP78 expression
- Interferon gamma
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy
- Peripheral blood mononuclear cells