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Open access

Felicity E B May and Bruce R Westley

The stratification of breast cancer patients for endocrine therapies by oestrogen or progesterone receptor expression is effective but imperfect. The present study aims were to validate microarray studies that demonstrate TFF3 regulation by oestrogen and its association with oestrogen receptors in breast cancer, to evaluate TFF3 as a biomarker of endocrine response, and to investigate TFF3 function. Microarray data were validated by quantitative RT-PCR and northern and western transfer analyses. TFF3 was induced by oestrogen, and its induction was inhibited by antioestrogens, tamoxifen, 4-hydroxytamoxifen and fulvestrant in oestrogen-responsive breast cancer cells. The expression of TFF3 mRNA was associated with oestrogen receptor mRNA in breast tumours (Pearson's coefficient=0.762, P=0.000). Monoclonal antibodies raised against the TFF3 protein detected TFF3 by immunohistochemistry in oesophageal submucosal glands, intestinal goblet and neuroendocrine cells, Barrett's metaplasia and intestinal metaplasia. TFF3 protein expression was associated with oestrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and TFF1 expression in malignant breast cells. TFF3 is a specific and sensitive predictive biomarker of response to endocrine therapy, degree of response and duration of response in unstratified metastatic breast cancer patients (P=0.000, P=0.002 and P=0.002 respectively). Multivariate binary logistic regression analysis demonstrated that TFF3 is an independent biomarker of endocrine response and degree of response, and this was confirmed in a validation cohort. TFF3 stimulated migration and invasion of breast cancer cells. In conclusion, TFF3 expression is associated with response to endocrine therapy, and outperforms oestrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and TFF1 as an independent biomarker, possibly because it mediates the malign effects of oestrogen on invasion and metastasis.

Open access

Evangelia-Ourania Fourkala, Alexey Zaikin, Matthew Burnell, Aleksandra Gentry-Maharaj, Jeremy Ford, Richard Gunu, Christina Soromani, Guido Hasenbrink, Ian Jacobs, Anne Dawnay, Martin Widschwendter, Hella Lichtenberg-Fraté, and Usha Menon

Postmenopausal women with elevated serum sex steroids have an increased risk of breast cancer. Most of this risk is believed to be exerted through binding of the sex steroids to their receptors. For the first time, we investigate the association of estrogen receptor (ER) and androgen receptor (AR) serum bioactivity (SB) in addition to hormone levels in samples from women with breast cancer collected before diagnosis. Two hundred postmenopausal women participating in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening who developed ER-positive breast cancer 0.6–5 years after sample donation were identified and matched to 400 controls. ER and AR bioassays were used to measure ERα, ERβ, and AR SB. Androgen and estrogen levels were measured with immunoassays. Subjects were classified according to quintiles of the respective marker among controls and the associations between SB and hormones with breast cancer risk were determined by logistic regression analysis. ERα and ERβ SB were significantly higher before diagnosis compared with controls, while estrogens showed no difference. Women had a twofold increased breast cancer risk if ERα SB (odds ratio (OR), 2.114; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.050–4.425; P=0.040) was in the top quintile >2 years before diagnosis or estrone (OR, 2.205; 95% CI, 1.104–4.586; P=0.029) was in the top quintile <2 years before diagnosis. AR showed no significant association with breast cancer while androstenedione (OR, 3.187; 95% CI, 1.738–6.044; P=0.0003) and testosterone (OR, 2.145; 95% CI, 1.256–3.712; P=0.006) were significantly higher compared with controls and showed a strong association with an almost threefold increased breast cancer risk independent of time to diagnosis. This study provides further evidence on the association of androgens and estrogens with breast cancer. In addition, it reports that high ER but not AR SB is associated with increased breast risk >2 years before diagnosis.

Open access

Petteri Ahtiainen, Victoria Sharp, Susana B Rulli, Adolfo Rivero-Müller, Veronika Mamaeva, Matias Röyttä, and Ilpo Huhtaniemi

The etiology of pituitary adenomas remains largely unknown, with the exception of involvement of estrogens in the formation of prolactinomas. We have examined the molecular pathogenesis of prolactin-producing pituitary adenomas in transgenic female mice expressing the human choriongonadotropin (hCG) β-subunit. The LH/CG bioactivity is elevated in the mice, with consequent highly stimulated ovarian progesterone (P4) production, in the face of normal estrogen secretion. Curiously, despite normal estrogen levels, large prolactinomas developed in these mice, and we provide here several lines of evidence that the elevated P4 levels are involved in the growth of these estrogen-dependent tumors. The antiprogestin mifepristone inhibited tumor growth, and combined postgonadectomy estradiol/P4 treatment was more effective than estrogen alone in inducing tumor growth. Evidence for direct growth-promoting effect of P4 was obtained from cultures of primary mouse pituitary cells and rat somatomammotroph GH3 cells. The mouse tumors and cultured cells revealed stimulation of the cyclin D1/cyclin-dependent kinase 4/retinoblastoma protein/transcription factor E2F1 pathway in the growth response to P4. If extrapolated to humans, and given the importance of endogenous P4 and synthetic progestins in female reproductive functions and their pharmacotherapy, it is relevant to revisit the potential role of these hormones in the origin and growth of prolactinomas.

Open access

Naomi E Allen, Timothy J Key, Laure Dossus, Sabina Rinaldi, Anne Cust, Annekatrin Lukanova, Petra H Peeters, N Charlotte Onland-Moret, Petra H Lahmann, Franco Berrino, Salvatore Panico, Nerea Larrañaga, Guillem Pera, Maria-José Tormo, Maria-José Sánchez, J Ramón Quirós, Eva Ardanaz, Anne Tjønneland, Anja Olsen, Jenny Chang-Claude, Jakob Linseisen, Mandy Schulz, Heiner Boeing, Eva Lundin, Domenico Palli, Kim Overvad, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault, Sheila Bingham, Kay-Tee Khaw, H Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Antonia Trichopoulou, Dimitiros Trichopoulos, Androniki Naska, Rosario Tumino, Elio Riboli, and Rudolf Kaaks

Epidemiological data show that reproductive and hormonal factors are involved in the etiology of endometrial cancer, but there is little data on the association with endogenous sex hormone levels. We analyzed the association between prediagnostic serum concentrations of sex steroids and endometrial cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition using a nested case–control design of 247 incident endometrial cancer cases and 481 controls, matched on center, menopausal status, age, variables relating to blood collection, and, for premenopausal women, phase of menstrual cycle. Using conditional regression analysis, endometrial cancer risk among postmenopausal women was positively associated with increasing levels of total testosterone, free testosterone, estrone, total estradiol, and free estradiol. The odds ratios (ORs) for the highest versus lowest tertile were 2.66 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.50–4.72; P=0.002 for a continuous linear trend) for estrone, 2.07 (95% CI 1.20–3.60; P=0.001) for estradiol, and 1.66 (95% CI 0.98–2.82; P=0.001) for free estradiol. For total and free testosterone, ORs for the highest versus lowest tertile were 1.44 (95% CI 0.88–2.36; P=0.05) and 2.05 (95% CI 1.23–3.42; P=0.005) respectively. Androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate were not associated with risk. Sex hormone-binding globulin was significantly inversely associated with risk (OR for the highest versus lowest tertile was 0.57, 95% CI 0.34–0.95; P=0.004). In premenopausal women, serum sex hormone concentrations were not clearly associated with endometrial cancer risk, but numbers were too small to draw firm conclusions. In conclusion, relatively high blood concentrations of estrogens and free testosterone are associated with an increased endometrial cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

Open access

Yuet-Kin Leung, Vinothini Govindarajah, Ana Cheong, Jennifer Veevers, Dan Song, Robin Gear, Xuegong Zhu, Jun Ying, Ady Kendler, Mario Medvedovic, Scott Belcher, and Shuk-Mei Ho

In utero exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) increases mammary cancer susceptibility in offspring. High-fat diet is widely believed to be a risk factor of breast cancer. The objective of this study was to determine whether maternal exposure to BPA in addition to high-butterfat (HBF) intake during pregnancy further influences carcinogen-induced mammary cancer risk in offspring, and its dose–response curve. In this study, we found that gestational HBF intake in addition to a low-dose BPA (25 µg/kg BW/day) exposure increased mammary tumor incidence in a 50-day-of-age chemical carcinogen administration model and altered mammary gland morphology in offspring in a non-monotonic manner, while shortening tumor-free survival time compared with the HBF-alone group. In utero HBF and BPA exposure elicited differential effects at the gene level in PND21 mammary glands through DNA methylation, compared with HBF intake in the absence of BPA. Top HBF + BPA-dysregulated genes (ALDH1B1, ASTL, CA7, CPLX4, KCNV2, MAGEE2 and TUBA3E) are associated with poor overall survival in The Cancer Genomic Atlas (TCGA) human breast cancer cohort (n = 1082). Furthermore, the prognostic power of the identified genes was further enhanced in the survival analysis of Caucasian patients with estrogen receptor-positive tumors. In conclusion, concurrent HBF dietary and a low-dose BPA exposure during pregnancy increases mammary tumor incidence in offspring, accompanied by alterations in mammary gland development and gene expression, and possibly through epigenetic reprogramming.

Open access

Ju-Yeon Moon, Man Ho Choi, and Jayoung Kim

Cholesterol and sex steroid hormones including androgens and estrogens play a critical role in the development and progression of urological diseases such as prostate cancer. This disease remains the most commonly diagnosed malignant tumor in men and is the leading cause of death from different cancers. Attempts to understand the role of cholesterol and steroid metabolism in urological diseases have been ongoing for many years, but despite this, our mechanistic and translational understanding remains elusive. In order to further evaluate the problem, we have taken an interest in metabolomics; a discipline dedicated to the systematic study of biologically active metabolites in cells, tissues, hair and biofluids. Recently, we provided evidence that a quantitative measurement of cholesterol and sex steroid metabolites can be successfully achieved using hair of human and mouse models. The overall goal of this short review article is to introduce current metabolomic technologies for the quantitative biomarker assay development and also to provide new insight into understanding the underlying mechanisms that trigger the pathological condition. Furthermore, this review will place a particular emphasis on how to prepare biospecimens (e.g., hair fiber), quantify molecular profiles and assess their clinical significance in various urological diseases.

Open access

Per Eystein Lønning and Hans Petter Eikesdal

Following their successful implementation for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, the ‘third-generation’ aromatase inhibitors (anastrozole, letrozole, and exemestane) have now become standard adjuvant endocrine treatment for postmenopausal estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers. These drugs are characterized by potent aromatase inhibition, causing >98% inhibition of estrogen synthesis in vivo. A recent meta-analysis found no difference in anti-tumor efficacy between these three compounds. As of today, aromatase inhibitor monotherapy and sequential treatment using tamoxifen followed by an aromatase inhibitor for a total of 5 years are considered equipotent treatment options. However, current trials are addressing the potential benefit of extending treatment duration beyond 5 years. Regarding side effects, aromatase inhibitors are not found associated with enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease, and enhanced bone loss is prevented by adding bisphosphonates in concert for those at danger of developing osteoporosis. However, arthralgia and carpal tunnel syndrome preclude drug administration among a few patients. While recent findings have questioned the use of aromatase inhibitors among overweight and, in particular, obese patients, this problem seems to focus on premenopausal patients treated with an aromatase inhibitor and an LH-RH analog in concert, questioning the efficacy of LH-RH analogs rather than aromatase inhibitors among overweight patients. Finally, recent findings revealing a benefit from adding the mTOR inhibitor everolimus to endocrine treatment indicate targeted therapy against defined growth factor pathways to be a way forward, by reversing acquired resistance to endocrine therapy.

Open access

Hyun Ho Han, Baek Gil Kim, Joo Hyun Lee, Suki Kang, Ji Eun Kim, and Nam Hoon Cho

In estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, it is recognized that metastases may develop after a long period of dormancy. Bone marrow (BM) vascular niche is where the dormant tumor cells are most likely to reside. So far, it is not fully understood why the dormant tumor cells become proliferative and eventually generate tumor. We hypothesized that therapeutic or menopause-related estrogen depletion may be the switch behind dormant ER+ tumor cell awakening in BM. We utilized an existing experimental model of BM endothelial niche that can simulate ER+ tumor cell dormancy to test our hypothesis. In results, estrogen depletion paradoxically promoted ER+ tumor cell proliferation in the BM endothelial niche, and their molecular phenotype shifted from dormant to awaken. Following estrogen depletion, the BM niche cells produced angiopoietin-2 (ANGPT2), which destabilized niche endothelium by interfering ANGPT1/Tie2 signaling, and promoted ER+ tumor cell survival under estrogen deficiency via cell surface integrin β1. Knockdown of ANGPT2 completely negated ER+ tumor cell awakening in the niche. Furthermore, ANGPT2 expression in ER+ tumor human samples was associated with increased risk of distant metastasis only in those who underwent adjuvant estrogen depletion therapy, not in those who did not undergo adjuvant therapy. In conclusion, we demonstrate that ANGPT2 signaling activated after estrogen depletion paradoxically triggers ER+ tumor cell awakening from dormancy in their BM niche, partly indirectly via endothelial Tie2 receptor and partly directly via tumor cell surface integrin β1.

Open access

Deborah J Thompson, Tracy A O'Mara, Dylan M Glubb, Jodie N Painter, Timothy Cheng, Elizabeth Folkerd, Deborah Doody, Joe Dennis, Penelope M Webb, for the Australian National Endometrial Cancer Study Group (ANECS), Maggie Gorman, Lynn Martin, Shirley Hodgson, for the National Study of Endometrial Cancer Genetics Group (NSECG), Kyriaki Michailidou, Jonathan P Tyrer, Mel J Maranian, Per Hall, Kamila Czene, Hatef Darabi, Jingmei Li, Peter A Fasching, Alexander Hein, Matthias W Beckmann, Arif B Ekici, Thilo Dörk, Peter Hillemanns, Matthias Dürst, Ingo Runnebaum, Hui Zhao, Jeroen Depreeuw, Stefanie Schrauwen, Frederic Amant, Ellen L Goode, Brooke L Fridley, Sean C Dowdy, Stacey J Winham, Helga B Salvesen, Jone Trovik, Tormund S Njolstad, Henrica M J Werner, Katie Ashton, Tony Proietto, Geoffrey Otton, Luis Carvajal-Carmona, Emma Tham, Tao Liu, Miriam Mints, for RENDOCAS, Rodney J Scott, Mark McEvoy, John Attia, Elizabeth G Holliday, Grant W Montgomery, Nicholas G Martin, Dale R Nyholt, Anjali K Henders, John L Hopper, Nadia Traficante, for the AOCS Group, Matthias Ruebner, Anthony J Swerdlow, Barbara Burwinkel, Hermann Brenner, Alfons Meindl, Hiltrud Brauch, Annika Lindblom, Diether Lambrechts, Jenny Chang-Claude, Fergus J Couch, Graham G Giles, Vessela N Kristensen, Angela Cox, Manjeet K Bolla, Qin Wang, Stig E Bojesen, Mitul Shah, Robert Luben, Kay-Tee Khaw, Paul D P Pharoah, Alison M Dunning, Ian Tomlinson, Mitch Dowsett, Douglas F Easton, and Amanda B Spurdle

Candidate gene studies have reported CYP19A1 variants to be associated with endometrial cancer and with estradiol (E2) concentrations. We analyzed 2937 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 6608 endometrial cancer cases and 37 925 controls and report the first genome wide-significant association between endometrial cancer and a CYP19A1 SNP (rs727479 in intron 2, P=4.8×10−11). SNP rs727479 was also among those most strongly associated with circulating E2 concentrations in 2767 post-menopausal controls (P=7.4×10−8). The observed endometrial cancer odds ratio per rs727479 A-allele (1.15, CI=1.11–1.21) is compatible with that predicted by the observed effect on E2 concentrations (1.09, CI=1.03–1.21), consistent with the hypothesis that endometrial cancer risk is driven by E2. From 28 candidate-causal SNPs, 12 co-located with three putative gene-regulatory elements and their risk alleles associated with higher CYP19A1 expression in bioinformatical analyses. For both phenotypes, the associations with rs727479 were stronger among women with a higher BMI (P interaction=0.034 and 0.066 respectively), suggesting a biologically plausible gene-environment interaction.

Open access

Pratima Basak, Sumanta Chatterjee, Steven Weger, M Christine Bruce, Leigh C Murphy, and Afshin Raouf

Although the role of estrogen signaling in breast cancer development has been extensively studied, the mechanisms that regulate the indispensable role of estrogen in normal mammary gland development have not been well studied. Because of the unavailability of culture system to maintain estrogen-receptor-positive (ERα+) cells in vitro, the molecular mechanisms that regulate estrogen/ERα signaling in the normal human breast are unknown. In the present study, we examined the effects of estrogen signaling on ERα+ human luminal progenitors using a modified matrigel assay and found that estrogen signaling increased the expansion potential of these progenitors. Furthermore, we found that blocking ERα attenuated luminal progenitor expansion and decreased the luminal colony-forming potential of these progenitors. Additionally, blocking ERα decreased H19 expression in the luminal progenitors and led to the development of smaller luminal colonies. We further showed that knocking down the H19 gene in the luminal progenitors significantly decreased the colony-forming potential of the luminal progenitors, and this phenotype could not be rescued by the addition of estrogen. Lastly, we explored the clinical relevance of the estrogen–H19 signaling axis in breast tumors and found that ERα+ tumors exhibited a higher expression of H19 as compared with ERα tumors and that H19 expression showed a positive correlation with ERα expression in those tumors. Taken together, the present results indicate that the estrogen–ERα–H19 signaling axis plays a role in regulating the proliferation and differentiation potentials of the normal luminal progenitors and that this signaling network may also be important in the development of ER+ breast cancer tumors.