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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

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

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

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

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

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.

Open access

Josefine Bostner, Elin Karlsson, Cecilia Bivik Eding, Gizeh Perez-Tenorio, Hanna Franzén, Aelita Konstantinell, Tommy Fornander, Bo Nordenskjöld, and Olle Stål

Detection of signals in the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and the estrogen receptor (ER) pathways may be a future clinical tool for the prediction of adjuvant treatment response in primary breast cancer. Using immunohistological staining, we investigated the value of the mTOR targets p70-S6 kinase (S6K) 1 and 2 as biomarkers for tamoxifen benefit in two independent clinical trials comparing adjuvant tamoxifen with no tamoxifen or 5 years versus 2 years of tamoxifen treatment. In addition, the prognostic value of the S6Ks was evaluated. We found that S6K1 correlated with proliferation, HER2 status, and cytoplasmic AKT activity, whereas high protein expression levels of S6K2 and phosphorylated (p) S6K were more common in ER-positive, and low-proliferative tumors with pAKT-s473 localized to the nucelus. Nuclear accumulation of S6K1 was indicative of a reduced tamoxifen effect (hazard ratio (HR): 1.07, 95% CI: 0.53–2.81, P=0.84), compared with a significant benefit from tamoxifen treatment in patients without tumor S6K1 nuclear accumulation (HR: 0.42, 95% CI: 0.29–0.62, P<0.00001). Also S6K1 and S6K2 activation, indicated by pS6K-t389 expression, was associated with low benefit from tamoxifen (HR: 0.97, 95% CI: 0.50–1.87, P=0.92). In addition, high protein expression of S6K1, independent of localization, predicted worse prognosis in a multivariate analysis, P=0.00041 (cytoplasm), P=0.016 (nucleus). In conclusion, the mTOR-activated kinases S6K1 and S6K2 interfere with proliferation and response to tamoxifen. Monitoring their activity and intracellular localization may provide biomarkers for breast cancer treatment, allowing the identification of a group of patients less likely to benefit from tamoxifen and thus in need of an alternative or additional targeted treatment.

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

Yuet-Kin Leung, Hung-Ming Lam, Shulin Wu, Dan Song, Linda Levin, Liang Cheng, Chin-Lee Wu, and Shuk-Mei Ho

Estrogens play a pivotal role in the development and progression of prostate cancer (PCa). Their actions are mediated by estrogen receptors (ERs), particularly ERβ in the prostate epithelium. With the discovery of ERβ isoforms, data from previous studies that focused principally on the wild-type ERβ (ERβ1) may not be adequate in explaining the still controversial role of ERβ(s) in prostate carcinogenesis. In this study, using newly generated isoform-specific antibodies, immunohistochemistry (IHC) was performed on a tumor microarray comprised of 144 specimens. IHC results were correlated with pathological and clinical follow-up data to delineate the distinct roles of ERβ1, ERβ2, and ERβ5 in PCa. ERβ2 was commonly found in the cytoplasm and was the most abundant isoform followed by ERβ1 localized predominantly in the nucleus, and ERβ5 was primarily located in the cytoplasm. Logistic regression analyses demonstrated that nuclear ERβ2 (nERβ2) is an independent prognostic marker for prostate specific antigen (PSA) failure and postoperative metastasis (POM). In a Kaplan–Meier analysis, the combined expression of both nERβ2 and cytoplasmic ERβ5 identified a group of patients with the shortest POM-free survival. Cox proportional hazard models revealed that nERβ2 predicted shorter time to POM. In concordance with IHC data, stable, ectopic expression of ERβ2 or ERβ5 enhanced PCa cell invasiveness but only PCa cells expressing ERβ5 exhibited augmented cell migration. This is the first study to uncover a metastasis-promoting role of ERβ2 and ERβ5 in PCa, and show that the two isoforms, singularly and conjointly, have prognostic values for PCa progression. These findings may aid future clinical management of PCa.

Open access

Siker Kimbung, Ching-yi Chang, Pär-Ola Bendahl, Laura Dubois, J Will Thompson, Donald P McDonnell, and Signe Borgquist

The impact of systemic 27-hydroxycholesterol (27HC) and intratumoral CYP27A1 expression on pathobiology and clinical response to statins in breast cancer needs clarification. 27HC is an oxysterol produced from cholesterol by the monooxygenase CYP27A1, which regulates intracellular cholesterol homeostasis. 27HC also acts as an endogenous selective estrogen receptor (ER) modulator capable of increasing breast cancer growth and metastasis. 27HC levels can be modulated by statins or direct inhibition of CYP27A1, thereby attenuating its pro-tumorigenic activities. Herein, the effect of statins on serum 27HC and tumor-specific CYP27A1 expression was evaluated in 42 breast cancer patients treated with atorvastatin within a phase II clinical trial. Further, the associations between CYP27A1 expression with other primary tumor pathological features and clinical outcomes were studied in two additional independent cohorts. Statin treatment effectively decreased serum 27HC and deregulated CYP27A1 expression in tumors. However, these changes were not associated with anti-proliferative responses to statin treatment. CYP27A1 was heterogeneously expressed among primary tumors, with high expression significantly associated with high tumor grade, ER negativity and basal-like subtype. High CYP27A1 expression was independently prognostic for longer recurrence-free and overall survival. Importantly, the beneficial effect of high CYP27A1 in ER-positive breast cancer seemed limited to women aged ≤50 years. These results establish a link between CYP27A1 and breast cancer pathobiology and prognosis and propose that the efficacy of statins in reducing serum lipids does not directly translate to anti-proliferative effects in tumors. Changes in other undetermined serum or tumor factors suggestively mediate the anti-proliferative effects of statins in breast cancer.