• breast cancer;
  • HER2;
  • lapatinib;
  • natural product;
  • quercetin-3-methyl ether;
  • apoptosis


Lapatinib, an oral, small-molecule, reversible inhibitor of both EGFR and HER2, is highly active in HER2 positive breast cancer as a single agent and in combination with other therapeutics. However, resistance against lapatinib is an unresolved problem in clinical oncology. Recently, interest in the use of natural compounds to prevent or treat cancers has gained increasing interest because of presumed low toxicity. Quercetin-3-methyl ether, a naturally occurring compound present in various plants, has potent anticancer activity. Here, we found that quercetin-3-methyl ether caused a significant growth inhibition of lapatinib-sensitive and -resistant breast cancer cells. Western blot data showed that quercetin-3-methyl ether had no effect on Akt or ERKs signaling in resistant cells. However, quercetin-3-methyl ether caused a pronounced G2/M block mainly through the Chk1-Cdc25c-cyclin B1/Cdk1 pathway in lapatinib-sensitive and -resistant cells. In contrast, lapatinib produced an accumulation of cells in the G1 phase mediated through cyclin D1, but only in lapatinib-sensitive cells. Moreover, quercetin-3-methyl ether induced significant apoptosis, accompanied with increased levels of cleaved caspase 3, caspase 7, and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) in both cell lines. Overall, these results suggested that quercetin-3-methyl ether might be a novel and promising therapeutic agent in lapatinib-sensitive or -resistant breast cancer patients. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.