Background: Ribonucleotide reductase (RR) is an essential enzyme involved in DNA synthesis. We hypothesized that RR subunit M2 (RRM2) might be a novel prognostic and predictive biomarker for estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancers.Methods: Individual and pooled survival analyses were conducted on six independent large-scale breast cancer microarray data sets; and findings were validated on a human breast tissue set (ZJU set).Results: Gene set enrichment analysis revealed that RRM2-high breast cancers were significantly enriched for expression of gene sets that increased in proliferation, invasiveness, undifferentiation, embryonic stem/progenitor-like phenotypes, and poor patient survival (p <0.01). Independent and pooled analyses verified that increased RRM2 mRNA levels were associated with poor patient outcome in a dose-dependent manner. The prognostic power of RRM2 mRNA was comparable to multiple gene signatures, and it was superior to TNM stage. In ER-negative breast cancers, RRM2 showed more prognostic power than that in ER-positive breast cancers. Further analysis indicated that RRM2 was a more accurate prognostic biomarker for ER-negative breast cancers than the pathoclinical indicators and uPA. A new RR inhibitor, COH29, could significantly enhance the chemosensitivity to doxorubicin in ER-negative MDA-MB-231 cells, but not in ER-positive MCF-7 cells.Conclusion: RRM2 appears to be a promising prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target for ER-negative breast cancer patients.
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