Eicosapentaenoic acid in combination with EPHA2 inhibition shows efficacy in preclinical models of triple-negative breast cancer by disrupting cellular cholesterol efflux.
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Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), the most aggressive breast cancer subtype, currently lacks effective targeted therapy options. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid and constituent of fish oil, is a common supplement with anti-inflammatory properties. Although it is not a mainstream treatment, several preclinical studies have demonstrated that EPA exerts anti-tumor activity in breast cancer. However, against solid tumors, EPA as a monotherapy is clinically ineffective; thus, we sought to develop a novel targeted drug combination to bolster its therapeutic action against TNBC. Using a high-throughput functional siRNA screen, we identified Ephrin type-A receptor 2 (EPHA2), an oncogenic cell-surface receptor tyrosine kinase, as a therapeutic target that sensitizes TNBC cells to EPA. EPHA2 expression was uniquely elevated in TNBC cell lines and patient tumors. In independent functional expression studies in TNBC models, EPHA2 gene-silencing combined with EPA significantly reduced cell growth and enhanced apoptosis compared with monotherapies, both in vitro and in vivo. EPHA2-specific inhibitors similarly enhanced the therapeutic action of EPA. Finally, we identified that therapy-mediated apoptosis was attributed to a lethal increase in cancer cell membrane polarity due to ABCA1 inhibition and subsequent dysregulation of cholesterol homeostasis. This study provides new molecular and preclinical evidence to support a clinical evaluation of EPA combined with EPHA2 inhibition in patients with TNBC.