HSF1 drives a transcriptional program distinct from heat shock to support highly malignant human cancers.
Heat-Shock Factor 1 (HSF1), master regulator of the heat-shock response, facilitates malignant transformation, cancer cell survival, and proliferation in model systems. The common assumption is that these effects are mediated through regulation of heat-shock protein (HSP) expression. However, the transcriptional network that HSF1 coordinates directly in malignancy and its relationship to the heat-shock response have never been defined. By comparing cells with high and low malignant potential alongside their nontransformed counterparts, we identify an HSF1-regulated transcriptional program specific to highly malignant cells and distinct from heat shock. Cancer-specific genes in this program support oncogenic processes: cell-cycle regulation, signaling, metabolism, adhesion and translation. HSP genes are integral to this program, however, many are uniquely regulated in malignancy. This HSF1 cancer program is active in breast, colon and lung tumors isolated directly from human patients and is strongly associated with metastasis and death. Thus, HSF1 rewires the transcriptome in tumorigenesis, with prognostic and therapeutic implications. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.