The idea of breast cancer prevention by hormonal means stemmed from the results of treatment trials, many of them carried out by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP). Over the years, a number of NSABP treatment studies demonstrated that breast cancer recurrence was reduced in women with the disease who were given tamoxifen, a selective estrogen receptor (ER) modulator (SERM). Five subsequent tamoxifen prevention trials with this agent have shown a 48% reduction in ER-positive cancers, but no effect for ER-negative cancers, and an increase in endometrial cancer and thromboembolic events. The drug raloxifene, another SERM, originally examined as an osteoporosis agent, has also shown promise for the prevention of breast cancer, although, as with tamoxifen, the drug carries a risk for thromboembolic events. There is recent evidence in a large treatment trial that the aromastase inhibitor anastrazole, a 'pure anti-estrogen', holds promise as a breast cancer preventive agent. Longer follow-up and the testing of additional agents is required before these drugs can be used widely for prevention. In addition, future research should focus on the identification of at-risk women who can perhaps be targeted for specific prevention agents.
Stephen Hiscox, Nicola J Jordan, Wen Jiang, Maureen Harper, Richard McClelland, Chris Smith, and Robert I Nicholson
Our previous investigations using cell models of tamoxifen resistance have shown that the acquisition of an endocrine-insensitive state is accompanied by an invasive in vitro phenotype. In this study, we wished to determine whether this was specifically related to partial oestrogen receptor agonists or whether similar phenomena arise with the newer ‘pure’ anti-oestrogens, exemplified by fulvestrant. Our data demonstrate that the development of fulvestrant resistance in two breast cancer cell lines, MCF7 and T47D, is accompanied by an augmented migratory and invasive phenotype in vitro and overexpression of the HGF/SF receptor, c-Met. Importantly, upregulated c-Met expression in these cells facilitates their stimulation by HGF/SF-secreting stromal fibroblasts, leading to the activation of Src, Akt and ERK1/2 and a profound enhancement of their aggressive phenotype in vitro. These effects could be specifically attributable to activation of the c-Met receptor since the inclusion of neutralising antibodies to c-Met, or siRNA-mediated knockdown of c-Met expression, suppressed both invasion and migration stimulated by either exogenous HGF/SF, fibroblast-conditioned medium or following co-culture with fibroblast cells. Together, these in vitro data suggest that the development of fulvestrant resistance in vivo may confer a metastatic advantage to the cells by allowing their migratory and invasive behaviour to be augmented by surrounding stromal cells.
R I Nicholson, I R Hutcheson, S E Hiscox, J M Knowlden, M Giles, D Barrow, and J M W Gee
De novo insensitivity and acquired resistance to the selective oestrogen receptor modulator tamoxifen and the pure anti-oestrogen fulvestrant (faslodex) severely limit their effectiveness in breast cancer patients. This is a major clinical problem, since each year upward of 1 million women are dispensed anti-oestrogenic drugs. In order to investigate the phenomenon of anti-oestrogen resistance and to rapidly screen drugs that target the resistance mechanism(s), we have previously established several in vitro breast cancer models that have acquired resistance to anti-hormones. Such cells commonly develop an ability to proliferate after approximately 3 months of exposure to 4-hydroxytamoxifen or fulvestrant, despite an initial endocrine-responsive (i.e. growth-suppressive) phase. The current paper explores the role that growth factor signalling plays in the transition of oestrogen receptor-positive endocrine-responsive breast cancer cells to anti-oestrogen resistance or insensitivity and how we might, in the future, most effectively use anti-growth factor therapies to treat or delay endocrine-resistant states.
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.
B R Rao and B J Slotman
Ovarian cancer has a poor prognosis. At the time of diagnosis, in the majority of cases, the disease has progressed to a stage where intra-abdominal dissemination has already taken place. The pathogenesis of ovarian cancer is still unknown. However, epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that endocrine factors may play an important role. Elevated steroid hormone levels have been detected in ovarian cancer patients. The use of endocrine therapy, frequently consisting of progestins and/or tamoxifen, given on an empirical basis and as a last resort, has shown a modest response rate of 10-15%. About 50% of the tumors are positive for estrogen and progesterone receptors (PR). The PR status is a prognostic indicator, independent of the stage of disease, histology and patient's age. The majority of ovarian cancers (>70%) are positive for androgen receptors. Anti-androgens inhibit the growth of ovarian cancer cells in vitro in a majority of cases tested. Clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of anti-androgen are recommended.
Endocrine-Related Cancer (1996) 3 309-326
N Brünner, M D Johnson, C Holst-Hansen, J F Kiilgaard, E W Thompson, and R Clarke
Oliver Zierau, Jacintha O’Sullivan, Colm Morrissey, Dana McDonald, Winfried Wünsche, Martin R Schneider, Martin P Tenniswood, and Günter Vollmer
Tamoxifen is the most widely prescribed anti-neoplastic drug for the treatment of both localized and metastatic breast cancer. It is also the prototype for a class of drugs that are referred to as selective estrogen receptor modifiers (SERMs), most of which have both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity in estrogen target tissues including the breast and endometrium. The underlying mechanisms of action of SERMs in the breast and endometrium that lead to profound differences in the tissue-specific effects of tamoxifen have not yet been elucidated.
We have compared the effects of tamoxifen and the pure anti-estrogen ICI 182,780 (Faslodex) in the RUCA-I hormone-responsive rat endometrial cell line in vitro and in vivo. In cell culture, RUCA-I cells responded to both estrogens and anti-estrogens, and the expression of clusterin and complement C3 mRNAs required the presence of estradiol and was repressed in the absence of estradiol or in the presence of the pure anti-estrogen ICI 182,780. Tamoxifen, on the other hand, induced both complement C3 and clusterin mRNA in the absence of estradiol and failed to repress their expression in the presence of estradiol. When grown as subcutaneous xenografts in syngeneic Da/Han rats for 5 weeks, the RUCA-I cells retained their sensitivity to estradiol, as demonstrated by significantly enhanced tumor growth in intact female rats compared with the growth in ovariectomized rats. But neither ICI 182,780 nor tamoxifen had a significant impact on tumor growth in cycling or ovariectomized animals. On the other hand, tamoxifen was potently estrogenic in metastatic lymph nodes, increasing the size of the lymph node tumors almost 6-fold over that seen in the intact cycling animals. In primary tumors, the expression of complement C3 mirrored that seen in vitro, although tamoxifen showed some agonist activity in ovariectomized animals. Tamoxifen also displayed marked agonist activity with respect to clusterin expression and enhanced clusterin mRNA levels and protein in both the primary tumors and lymph metastases in intact and ovariectomized animals.
Given the recent demonstration that over-expression of clusterin increases the metastatic potential of breast cancer cells, these data may provide a mechanistic explanation for the increased incidence of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal patients treated with tamoxifen.
Sisi He, Liqian Ma, Amy E Baek, Anna Vardanyan, Varsha Vembar, Joy J Chen, Adam T Nelson, Joanna E Burdette, and Erik R Nelson
There is an urgent need for more effective strategies to treat ovarian cancer. Elevated cholesterol levels are associated with a decreased progression-free survival time (PFS) while statins are protective. 27-Hydroxycholesterol (27HC), a primary metabolite of cholesterol, has been shown to modulate the activities of the estrogen receptors (ERs) and liver x receptors (LXRs) providing a potential mechanistic link between cholesterol and ovarian cancer progression. We found that high expression of CYP27A1, the enzyme responsible for the synthesis of 27HC, was associated with decreased PFS, while high expression of CYP7B1, responsible for 27HC catabolism, was associated with increased PFS. However, 27HC decreased the cellular proliferation of various ovarian cancer cell lines in an LXR-dependent manner. Intriguingly, ID8 grafts were unable to effectively establish in CYP27A1−/− mice, indicating involvement of the host environment. Tumors from mice treated with 27HC had altered myeloid cell composition, and cells from the marrow stem cell lineage were found to be responsible for the effects in CYP27A1−/− mice. While inhibition of CYP27A1 or immune checkpoint did not significantly alter tumor size, their combination did, thereby highlighting this axis as a therapeutic target.
Zane Hammoud, Bailin Tan, Sunil Badve, and Robert M Bigsby
Numerous epidemiological observations point to sex differences in lung cancer etiology and progression. The present study was aimed at understanding the bases of these sex differences. To test the effect of estradiol on tumor progression, we used a mouse model based on conditional Kras expression and concurrent deletion of Tp53 following inhalation of an adenoviral vector expressing Cre recombinase (AdeCre). Ovariectomized females and males were treated with estradiol via a continuous-release capsule. Tumor multiplicity, tumor volume, and histological grade were determined at 10 weeks after AdeCre administration. Cell proliferation was monitored by Ki67 immunohistochemistry at 4 and 10 weeks after AdeCre administration. At 10 weeks, female mice had more than twice the number of tumors evident on the surface of the lungs than male mice; ovariectomy eliminated this sex difference. The estrogen treatment significantly increased tumor number and volume in ovariectomized females and in males. Histological character of the tumors ranged from adenoma to adenocarcinoma. Ovary-intact females exhibited higher grade tumors than ovariectomized females or males. Progression to higher histological grade was stimulated by estrogen in male mice but not in ovariectomized females. At 10 weeks after AdeCre administration, tumor cell Ki67-labeling varied widely, precluding assessment of an estrogen effect; however, at 4 weeks, Ki67 labeling of lung parenchymal cells was increased 3.5-fold by estrogen. In conclusion, estrogen acts as a promoter for lung adenocarcinoma in a genetically defined lung cancer model; estrogen-induced cell proliferation in the oncogene-initiated cells is likely to play a role in this tumor promoter activity.
Amanda J M O’Donnell, Kenneth G Macleod, David J Burns, John F Smyth, and Simon P Langdon
Estrogens play a significant role in the development, growth, invasion and metastasis of ovarian tumors. The transcriptional program regulated by 17β-estradiol (E2) in human ovarian cancer cell lines was analyzed using cDNA microarrays containing 1200 cancer-related genes. Twenty-eight transcripts had at least a threefold change in expression in E2-treated PEO1 ovarian carcinoma cells compared with controls. These differences were confirmed by real-time quantitative PCR and shown to be dependent upon the expression of functional estrogen receptor-α (ERα). Consistent with this, these gene expression changes were blocked by the anti-estrogen tamoxifen. The use of ERα- and ERβ-specific ligands allowed molecular dissection of the E2 response and showed that ERα activation was responsible for the observed changes in gene expression, whereas ERβ played no significant role. Inhibition of de novo protein synthesis by cycloheximide was used to distinguish between primary and secondary target genes regulated by E2. Actinomycin D was used to show that changes in gene expression levels induced by E2 were a result of changes in transcription and not due to changes in mRNA stability. The results presented here demonstrate that estrogen-driven growth of epithelial ovarian carcinoma is mediated by activation of ERα-mediated, and not ERβ-mediated, transcription.