BackgroundTriple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a highly aggressive malignancy that lacks sensitivity to chemotherapy, endocrine therapy or targeted therapy. CDK4/6 inhibitors, combined with endocrine therapy, have been shown to be effective in postmenopausal women with HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Therefore, we investigated whether the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib (PD) could enhance the effects of cisplatin (CDDP) on TNBC.MethodsThe effects of different drug regimens consisting of PD and CDDP on MDA-MB-231 and RB-knockdown MDA-MB-231 (sh-MDA-MB-231) cells were assessed in vitro and in vivo. MDA-MB-468 and RB-overexpressing MDA-MB-468 cells were used to assess the effect of the PD-CDDP regimens in vitro. Immunoblotting illustrated the role of the cyclin D1/RB/E2F axis signalling pathway.ResultsPD induced G1 phase cell cycle arrest in the MDA-MB-231 cell line. However, synchronous treatment with PD and CDDP for 24 h, treatment with PD for 24 h followed by CDDP and treatment with CDDP for 24 h followed by PD had no influence on MDA-MB-231 cell apoptosis. We further investigated the effect of PD or CDDP withdrawal on the effects of sequential treatment and found that PD treatment for 48 h followed by withdrawal for 48 h and subsequent CDDP treatment (PD-CDDP) significantly increased apoptosis and inhibited the cell viability and colony formation of MDA-MB-231 cells, while with other regimens, PD and CDDP had an additive or antagonistic response. The preferential use of PD increased DNA damage induced by CDDP, as measured through γH2AX immunofluorescence. These findings were not observed in sh-MDA-MB-231 cells, and experiments to assess cell function in MDA-MB-468 and RB-overexpressing MDA-MB-468 cells yielded similar results, which indicated that PD enhanced the sensitivity of TNBC cells to CDDP in an RB-dependent manner. In vivo, compared with single drug treatment, combination treatment inhibited tumour growth and Ki-67 expression in MDA-MB-231 xenograft models. Western blot analysis revealed that PD enhanced sensitivity to CDDP through the CDK4/6-cyclin D1-RB-E2F pathway.ConclusionsPre-treatment with PD synchronized the tumour cell cycle through the CDK4/6-cyclin D1-RB-E2F pathway, which increased the antitumour effect of CDDP. Thus, PD-CDDP might be an effective treatment for RB-proficient TNBC patients.