Morphine promotes cancer stem cell properties, contributing to chemoresistance in breast cancer.
Oncotarget. 2015 Feb 28 ;6(6):3963-76. PMID: 25686831
Morphine is an opioid analgesic drug commonly used for pain relief in cancer patients. Here, we report that morphine enhances the mammosphere forming capacity and increases the expression of stemness-related transcription factors Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog. Treatment with morphine leads to enrichment of a side population fraction in MCF-7 cells and the CD44+/CD24(-/low) population in BT549 cells. Consistently, morphine activates Wnt/β-catenin signaling to induce epithelial to mesenchymal transition and promotes metastasis. Moreover, morphine decreases the sensitivity of traditional anti-cancer drugs in breast cancer cells. Nalmefene, an antagonist of morphine, reverses morphine-induced cancer stem cell properties and chemoresistance in breast cancer. In addition, nalmefene abolishes morphine enhancing tumorigenesis in a NOD/SCID mouse model. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that morphine contributes to chemoresistance via expanding the population of cancer stem cells and promotes tumor growth, thereby revealing anovel role of morphine and providing some new guides in clinical use of morphine.