ER-positive (ER+ ) breast cancer includes all of the intrinsic molecular subtypes, although the luminal A and B subtypes predominate. In this study, we evaluated the ability of six clinically relevant genomic signatures to predict relapse in patients with ER+ tumors treated with adjuvant tamoxifen only.
Four microarray datasets were combined and research-based versions of PAM50 intrinsic subtyping and risk of relapse (PAM50-ROR) score, 21-gene recurrence score (OncotypeDX), Mammaprint, Rotterdam 76 gene, index of sensitivity to endocrine therapy (SET) and an estrogen-induced gene set were evaluated. Distant relapse-free survival (DRFS) was estimated by Kaplan–Meier and log-rank tests, and multivariable analyses were done using Cox regression analysis. Harrell's C-index was also used to estimate performance.
All signatures were prognostic in patients with ER+ node-negative tumors, whereas most were prognostic in ER+ node-positive disease. Among the signatures evaluated, PAM50-ROR, OncotypeDX, Mammaprint and SET were consistently found to be independent predictors of relapse. A combination of all signatures significantly increased the performance prediction. Importantly, low-risk tumors (>90% DRFS at 8.5 years) were identified by the majority of signatures only within node-negative disease, and these tumors were mostly luminal A (78%–100%).
Most established genomic signatures were successful in outcome predictions in ER+ breast cancer and provided statistically independent information. From a clinical perspective, multiple signatures combined together most accurately predicted outcome, but a common finding was that each signature identified a subset of luminal A patients with node-negative disease who might be considered suitable candidates for adjuvant endocrine therapy alone.
breast cancer; genomics; luminal; mammaprint; oncotype; PAM50
Gene expression profiling classifies breast cancer into intrinsic subtypes based on the biology of the underlying disease pathways. We have used material from a prospective randomized trial of tamoxifen versus placebo in premenopausal women with primary breast cancer (NCIC CTG MA.12) to evaluate the prognostic and predictive significance of intrinsic subtypes identified by both the PAM50 gene set and by immunohistochemistry.
Total RNA from 398 of 672 (59%) patients was available for intrinsic subtyping with a quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) 50-gene predictor (PAM50) for luminal A, luminal B, HER-2–enriched, and basal-like subtypes. A tissue microarray was also constructed from 492 of 672 (73%) of the study population to assess a panel of six immunohistochemical IHC antibodies to define the same intrinsic subtypes.
Classification into intrinsic subtypes by the PAM50 assay was prognostic for both disease-free survival (DFS; P = 0.0003) and overall survival (OS; P = 0.0002), whereas classification by the IHC panel was not. Luminal subtype by PAM50 was predictive of tamoxifen benefit [DFS: HR, 0.52; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.32–0.86 vs. HR, 0.80; 95% CI, 0.50–1.29 for nonluminal subtypes], although the interaction test was not significant (P = 0.24), whereas neither subtyping by central immunohistochemistry nor by local estrogen receptor (ER) or progesterone receptor (PR) status were predictive. Risk of relapse (ROR) modeling with the PAM50 assay produced a continuous risk score in both node-negative and node-positive disease.
In the MA.12 study, intrinsic subtype classification by qRT-PCR with the PAM50 assay was superior to IHC profiling for both prognosis and prediction of benefit from adjuvant tamoxifen.
Primary breast cancer involving four or more axillary lymph nodes carries a poor prognosis. We hypothesized that use of an immunohistochemical biomarker scoring system could allow for identification of variable risk subgroups.
Patients with four or more positive axillary nodes were identified from a clinically annotated tissue microarray of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded primary breast cancers and randomized into a 'test set' and a 'validation set'. A prospectively defined prognostic scoring model was developed in the test set and was further assessed in the validation set combining expression for eight biomarkers by immunohistochemistry, including estrogen receptor, human epidermal growth factor receptors 1 and 2, carbonic anhydrase IX, cytokeratin 5/6, progesterone receptor, p53 and Ki-67. Survival outcomes were analyzed by the Kaplan–Meier method, log rank tests and Cox proportional-hazards models.
A total of 313 eligible patients were identified in the test set for whom 10-year relapse-free survival was 38.3% (SEM 2.9%), with complete immunohistochemical data available for 227. Tumor size, percentage of positive axillary nodes and expression status for the progesterone receptor, Ki-67 and carbonic anhydrase IX demonstrated independent prognostic significance with respect to relapse-free survival. Our combined biomarker scoring system defined three subgroups in the test set with mean 10-year relapse-free survivals of 75.4% (SEM 7.0%), 35.3% (SEM 4.1%) and 19.3% (SEM 7.0%). In the validation set, differences in relapse-free survival for these subgroups remained statistically significant but less marked.
Biomarkers assessed here carry independent prognostic value for breast cancer with four or more positive axillary nodes and identified clinically relevant prognostic subgroups. This approach requires refinement and validation of methodology.
Proliferation and tumor differentiation captured by the genomic grade index (GGI) are important prognostic indicators in breast cancer (BC) especially for the estrogen receptor positive (ER+) disease. The aims of this study were to convert this microarray index to a qRT-PCR assay (PCR-GGI), which could be realized on formalin fixed paraffin embedded samples (FFPE), and to assess its prognostic performance and predictive value of clinical benefit in early and advanced ER+ BC patients treated with tamoxifen.
The accuracy and concordance of the PCR-GGI with the GGI was assessed using BC patients for which frozen and FFPE tissues as well as microarray data were available (n = 19). The evaluation of the prognostic value of the PCR-GGI was assessed on FFPE material using a consecutive series of 212 systemically treated early BC patients. The predictive performance for tamoxifen benefit was assessed using two ER+ BC populations treated either with adjuvant tamoxifen only (n = 77+139) or first-line tamoxifen for advanced disease (n = 270).
The PCR-GGI is based on the expression of 8 genes (4 representative of the GGI and 4 reference genes). A significant correlation was observed between the microarray-derived GGI and the qRT-PCR assay using frozen (ρ = 0.95, p < 10E-06) and FFPE material (ρ = 0.89, p < 10E-06). The prognostic performance of the PCR-GGI was confirmed on FFPE samples (HRunivar. = 1.89; [95CI:1.01-3.54], p = 0.05). The PCR-GGI further identified two subgroups of patients with statistically different time to distant metastasis free survival (DMFS) across the two cohorts of ER+ BC patients treated with adjuvant tamoxifen. Additionally, the PCR-GGI was associated with response to tamoxifen in the advanced setting (HRunivar. = 1.98; [95CI:1.51-2.59], p = 6.9E-07).
PCR-GGI recapitulates in an accurate and reproducible manner the performances of the GGI using frozen and FFPE samples.
Recent studies suggest that intrinsic breast cancer subtypes may differ in their responsiveness to specific chemotherapy regimens. We examined this hypothesis on NCIC.CTG MA.5, a clinical trial randomizing premenopausal women with node-positive breast cancer to adjuvant CMF (cyclophosphamide-methotrexate-fluorouracil) versus CEF (cyclophosphamide-epirubicin-fluorouracil) chemotherapy.
Intrinsic subtype was determined for 476 tumors using the quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR PAM50 gene expression test. Luminal A, luminal B, HER2-enriched (HER2-E), and basal-like subtypes were correlated with relapse-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS), estimated using Kaplan-Meier plots and log-rank testing. Multivariable Cox regression analyses determined significance of interaction between treatment and intrinsic subtypes.
Intrinsic subtypes were associated with RFS (P = 0005) and OS (P < 0.0001) on the combined cohort. The HER2-E showed the greatest benefit from CEF versus CMF, with absolute 5-year RFS and OS differences exceeding 20%, whereas there was a less than 2% difference for non-HER2-E tumors (interaction test P = 0.03 for RFS and 0.03 for OS). Within clinically defined Her2+ tumors, 79% (72 of 91) were classified as the HER2-E subtype by gene expression and this subset was strongly associated with better response to CEF versus CMF (62% vs. 22%, P = 0.0006). There was no significant difference in benefit between CEF and CMF in basal-like tumors [n = 94; HR, 1.1; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.6−.1 for RFS and HR, 1.3; 95% CI, 0.7−2.5 for OS].
HER2-E strongly predicted anthracycline sensitivity. The chemotherapy-sensitive basal- like tumors showed no added benefit for CEF over CMF, suggesting that nonanthracycline regimens may be adequate in this subtype although further investigation is required.
Many methodologies have been used in research to identify the “intrinsic” subtypes of breast cancer commonly known as Luminal A, Luminal B, HER2-Enriched (HER2-E) and Basal-like. The PAM50 gene set is often used for gene expression-based subtyping; however, surrogate subtyping using panels of immunohistochemical (IHC) markers are still widely used clinically. Discrepancies between these methods may lead to different treatment decisions.
We used the PAM50 RT-qPCR assay to expression profile 814 tumors from the GEICAM/9906 phase III clinical trial that enrolled women with locally advanced primary invasive breast cancer. All samples were scored at a single site by IHC for estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and Her2/neu (HER2) protein expression. Equivocal HER2 cases were confirmed by chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH). Single gene scores by IHC/CISH were compared with RT-qPCR continuous gene expression values and “intrinsic” subtype assignment by the PAM50. High, medium, and low expression for ESR1, PGR, ERBB2, and proliferation were selected using quartile cut-points from the continuous RT-qPCR data across the PAM50 subtype assignments.
ESR1, PGR, and ERBB2 gene expression had high agreement with established binary IHC cut-points (area under the curve (AUC) ≥ 0.9). Estrogen receptor positivity by IHC was strongly associated with Luminal (A and B) subtypes (92%), but only 75% of ER negative tumors were classified into the HER2-E and Basal-like subtypes. Luminal A tumors more frequently expressed PR than Luminal B (94% vs 74%) and Luminal A tumors were less likely to have high proliferation (11% vs 77%). Seventy-seven percent (30/39) of ER-/HER2+ tumors by IHC were classified as the HER2-E subtype. Triple negative tumors were mainly comprised of Basal-like (57%) and HER2-E (30%) subtypes. Single gene scoring for ESR1, PGR, and ERBB2 was more prognostic than the corresponding IHC markers as shown in a multivariate analysis.
The standard immunohistochemical panel for breast cancer (ER, PR, and HER2) does not adequately identify the PAM50 gene expression subtypes. Although there is high agreement between biomarker scoring by protein immunohistochemistry and gene expression, the gene expression determinations for ESR1 and ERBB2 status was more prognostic.
Risk assignment in breast cancer patients using the PAM50 Breast Cancer Intrinsic Classifier™ and the Oncotype DX® Recurrence Score in the same population was compared. There is good agreement between the two assays for high and low prognostic risk assignment but PAM50 assigns more patients to the low risk category. About half of the intermediate risk RS group was reclassified as low risk luminal A by PAM50, which suggests a potential complementary use for the assays.
To compare risk assignment by PAM50 Breast Cancer Intrinsic Classifier™ and Oncotype DX_Recurrence Score (RS) in the same population.
RNA was extracted from 151 estrogen receptor (ER)+ stage I–II breast cancers and gene expression profiled using PAM50 “intrinsic” subtyping test.
One hundred eight cases had complete molecular information; 103 (95%) were classified as luminal A (n = 76) or luminal B (n = 27). Ninety-two percent (n = 98) had a low (n = 59) or intermediate (n = 39) RS. Among luminal A cancers, 70% had low (n = 53) and the remainder (n = 23) had an intermediate RS. Among luminal B cancers, nine were high (33%) and 13 were intermediate (48%) by the RS. Almost all cancers with a high RS were classified as luminal B (90%, n = 9). One high RS cancer was identified as basal-like and had low ER/ESR1 and low human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) expression by quantitative polymerase chain reaction in both assays. The majority of low RS cases were luminal A (83%, n = 53). Importantly, half of the intermediate RS cancers were re-categorized as low risk luminal A subtype by PAM50.
There is good agreement between the two assays for high (i.e., luminal B or RS > 31) and low (i.e., luminal B or RS < 18) prognostic risk assignment but PAM50 assigns more patients to the low risk category. About half of the intermediate RS group was reclassified as luminal A by PAM50.
Oncotype DX®; PAM50 assay; Gene expression profiles; Breast cancer; Prognosis
Within estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer (ER+ BC), the expression levels of proliferation-related genes can define two clinically distinct molecular subtypes. When treated with adjuvant tamoxifen, those ER+ BCs that are lowly proliferative have a good prognosis (luminal-A subtype), however the clinical outcome of those that are highly proliferative is poor (luminal-B subtype).
To investigate the biological basis for these observations, gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was performed using microarray data from 246 ER+ BC samples from women treated with adjuvant tamoxifen monotherapy. To create an in vitro model of growth factor (GF) signaling activation, MCF-7 cells were treated with heregulin (HRG), an HER3 ligand.
We found that a gene set linked to GF signaling was significantly enriched in the luminal-B tumors, despite only 10% of samples over-expressing HER2 by immunohistochemistry. To determine the biological significance of this observation, MCF-7 cells were treated with HRG. These cells displayed phosphorylation of HER2/3 and downstream ERK and S6. Treatment with HRG overcame tamoxifen-induced cell cycle arrest with higher S-phase fraction and increased anchorage independent colony formation. Gene expression profiles of MCF-7 cells treated with HRG confirmed enrichment of the GF signaling gene set and a similar proliferative signature observed in human ER+ BCs resistant to tamoxifen.
These data demonstrate that activation of GF signaling pathways, independent of HER2 over-expression, could be contributing to the poor prognosis of the luminal-B ER+ BC subtype.
Preoperative aromatase inhibitor (AI) treatment promotes breast-conserving surgery (BCS) for estrogen receptor (ER) –positive breast cancer. To study this treatment option, responses to three AIs were compared in a randomized phase II neoadjuvant trial designed to select agents for phase III investigations.
Patients and Methods
Three hundred seventy-seven postmenopausal women with clinical stage II to III ER-positive (Allred score 6-8) breast cancer were randomly assigned to receive neoadjuvant exemestane, letrozole, or anastrozole. The primary end point was clinical response. Secondary end points included BCS, Ki67 proliferation marker changes, the Preoperative Endocrine Prognostic Index (PEPI), and PAM50-based intrinsic subtype analysis.
On the basis of clinical response rates, letrozole and anastrozole were selected for further investigation; however, no other differences in surgical outcome, PEPI score, or Ki67 suppression were detected. The BCS rate for mastectomy-only patients at presentation was 51%. PAM50 analysis identified AI-unresponsive nonluminal subtypes (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 enriched or basal-like) in 3.3% of patients. Clinical response and surgical outcomes were similar in luminal A (LumA) versus luminal B tumors; however, a PEPI of 0 (best prognostic group) was highest in the LumA subset (27.1% v 10.7%; P = .004).
Neoadjuvant AI treatment markedly improved surgical outcomes. Ki67 and PEPI data demonstrated that the three agents tested are biologically equivalent and therefore likely to have similar adjuvant activities. LumA tumors were more likely to have favorable biomarker characteristics after treatment; however, occasional paradoxical increases in Ki67 (12% of tumors with > 5% increase after therapy) suggest treatment-resistant cells, present in some LumA tumors, can be detected by post-treatment profiling.
Targeting the estrogen receptor is an important strategy in breast cancer therapy. However, although inhibiting estrogen receptor function with specific estrogen receptor modulators can achieve a primary response in cancer patients, intrinsic or subsequently acquired resistance to the therapy remains a major obstacle in the clinic. Thus, it is critical to gain amore thorough understanding of howestrogen receptor functions are regulated in breast cancer.Here, we demonstrate that the non-receptor tyrosine kinase c-ABL is a functional partner of the estrogen receptor, as expression of c-ABL sustained transcriptional activity of the estrogen receptor. More importantly, inhibition of c-ABL resulted in sensitization to treatment by tamoxifen (TAM) in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells, as manifested by inhibition of cell survival and suppression of anchorage-independent growth. We found that c-ABL interacts with estrogen receptor in breast cancer cells and that expression of c-ABL is a frequent event in primary breast cancer tumor tissues. In estrogen receptor-positive tumors, the expression of c-ABL significantly correlated with disease progression and metastasis. This study shows that c-ABL regulates the cellular response to TAM through functional interaction with the estrogen receptor, which suggests c-ABL as a therapeutic target and a prognostic tumor marker for breast cancer.
Recent advances in genome wide transcriptional analysis have provided greater insights into the etiology and heterogeneity of breast cancer. Molecular signatures have been developed that stratify the conventional estrogen receptor positive or negative categories into subtypes that are associated with differing clinical outcomes. It is thought that the expression patterns of the molecular subtypes primarily reflect cell-of-origin or tumor driver mutations. In this study however, using a genetically engineered mouse mammary tumor model we demonstrate that the PAM50 subtype signature of tumors driven by a common oncogenic event can be significantly influenced by the genetic background on which the tumor arises. These results have important implications for interpretation of “snapshot” expression profiles, as well as suggesting that incorporation of genetic background effects may allow investigation into phenotypes not initially anticipated in individual mouse models of cancer.
Tamoxifen remains a cornerstone of adjuvant therapy for early stage breast cancer patients with estrogen receptor-positive tumors. Accurate markers of tamoxifen resistance would allow prediction of tamoxifen response and personalization of combined therapies. Recently, it has been suggested that patients with inherited nonfunctional alleles of the cytochrome P450 CYP2D6 may be poor candidates for adjuvant tamoxifen therapy because women with these variant alleles have reduced concentrations of the tamoxifen metabolites that most strongly bind the estrogen receptor. In some studies, women with these alleles have a higher risk of recurrence than women with two functional alleles. However, dose-setting studies with clinical and biomarker outcomes, studies associating clinical outcomes with serum concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites, and a simple model of receptor binding, all suggest that tamoxifen and its metabolites should reach concentrations sufficient to achieve the therapeutic effect regardless of CYP2D6 inhibition. The ten epidemiology studies of the association between CYP2D6 genotype and breast cancer recurrence report widely heterogeneous results with relative risk estimates outside the range of reasonable bounds. None of the explanations proposed for the heterogeneity of results account adequately for the observed variability and no design feature sets apart any study or subset of studies as most likely to be accurate. The studies reporting a positive association may receive the most attention because they reported a result consistent with the profile of metabolite concentrations; not because they are more reliable by design. We argue that a recommendation for CYP2D6 genotyping of candidates for tamoxifen therapy, and its implicit conclusion regarding the association between genotype and recurrence risk, is premature.
Tamoxifen is used in hormone therapy for estrogen-receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, but also has chemopreventative effects against ER-negative breast cancers. This study sought to investigate whether oral iron-saturated bovine lactoferrin (Fe-Lf), a natural product which enhances chemotherapy, could improve the chemotherapeutic effects of tamoxifen in the treatment of ER-negative breast cancers.
In a model of breast cancer prevention, female Balb/c mice treated with tamoxifen (5 mg/Kg) were fed an Fe-Lf supplemented diet (5 g/Kg diet) or the base diet. At week 2, 4T1 mammary carcinoma cells were injected into an inguinal mammary fat pad. In a model of breast cancer treatment, tamoxifen treatment was not started until two weeks following tumor cell injection. Tumor growth, metastasis, body weight, and levels of interleukin 18 (IL-18) and interferon γ (IFN-γ) were analyzed.
Tamoxifen weakly (IC50 ~ 8 μM) inhibited the proliferation of 4T1 cells at pharmacological concentrations in vitro. In the tumor prevention study, a Fe-Lf diet in combination with tamoxifen caused a 4 day delay in tumor formation, and significantly inhibited tumor growth and metastasis to the liver and lung by 48, 58, and 66% (all P < 0.001), respectively, compared to untreated controls. The combination therapy was significantly (all P < 0.05) more effective than the respective monotherapies. Oral Fe-Lf attenuated the loss of body weight caused by tamoxifen and cancer cachexia. It prevented tamoxifen-induced reductions in serum levels of IL-18 and IFN-γ, and intestinal cells expressing IL-18 and IFN-γ. It increased the levels of Lf in leukocytes residing in gut-associated lymphoid tissues. B, T and Natural killer (NK) cells containing high levels of Lf were identified in 4T1 tumors, suggesting they had migrated from the intestine. Similar effects of Fe-Lf and tamoxifen on tumor cell viability were seen in the treatment of established tumors.
The results indicate that Fe-Lf is a potent natural adjuvant capable of augmenting the chemotherapeutic activity of tamoxifen. It could have application in delaying relapse in tamoxifen-treated breast cancer patients who are at risk of developing ER-negative tumors.
Breast cancer; Iron-saturated lactoferrin; Tamoxifen; Immune enhancement; Mice
Tamoxifen is standard adjuvant treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. The benefit of adding chemotherapy and optimal timing of tamoxifen with chemotherapy are unknown.
We conducted a parallel randomized phase III trial in postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive, node-positive breast cancer to test whether disease-free survival (DFS) with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin (AdriamycinR), and 5-fluorouracil (CAF) plus 5 years of tamoxifen was longer than with tamoxifen alone; and whether DFS with CAF followed by tamoxifen (CAF-T) was better than CAF plus concurrent tamoxifen (CAFT). Overall survival and toxicity were predefined, important secondary outcomes. Randomization was a 2:3:3 (T:CAF-T:CAFT) unblinded allocation and analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00929591.
Of 1558 women randomized, 1477 (95%) were eligible (tamoxifen, 361; CAF-T, 566; CAFT, 550). The combined CAF groups were superior to tamoxifen for the primary outcome of DFS (P=0.002), with adjusted Cox regression hazard ratio (HR) =0.76 (95% CI 0.64,0.91). CAF-T was marginally better than CAFT for DFS (P=0.055) with adjusted HR 0.84 (0.70,1.01). Ten-year DFS for CAF-T, CAFT, and T were 60%, 53%, and 48%, respectively. The planned secondary outcome, overall survival, showed a similar pattern of results, with combined CAF groups seem superior to tamoxifen [p=0.043, adjusted HR 0.83 (0.68,1.01)]. Neutropenia, stomatitis, thromboembolism, congestive heart failure and leukemia were more frequent with CAF than tamoxifen alone.
Chemotherapy with CAF plus tamoxifen resulted in longer survival over tamoxifen in endocrine-responsive, node-positive breast cancer, with greater benefit when tamoxifen followed CAF.
National Cancer Institute (NIH-USA).
Few markers are available that can predict response to tamoxifen treatment in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers. Identification of such markers would be clinically useful. We attempted to identify molecular markers associated with tamoxifen failure in breast cancer.
Eighteen initially ER-positive patients treated with tamoxifen requiring salvage surgery (tamoxifen failure [TF] patients) were compared with 17 patients who were disease free 5 years after surgery plus tamoxifen adjuvant therapy (control patients). cDNA microarray, real-time quantitative PCR, and immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays were used to generate and confirm a gene signature associated with tamoxifen failure. An independent series of 33 breast tumor samples from patients who relapsed (n = 14) or did not relapse (n = 19) under tamoxifen treatment from a different geographic location was subsequently used to explore the gene expression signature identified.
Using a screening set of 18 tumor samples (from eight control patients and 10 TF patients), a 47-gene signature discriminating between TF and control samples was identified using cDNA arrays. In addition to ESR1/ERα, the top-ranked genes selected by statistical cross-analyses were MET, FOS, SNCG, IGFBP4, and BCL2, which were subsequently validated in a larger set of tumor samples (from 17 control patients and 18 TF patients). Confirmation at the protein level by tissue microarray immunohistochemistry was observed for ER-α, γ-synuclein, and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 4 proteins in the 35 original samples. In an independent series of breast tumor samples (19 nonrelapsing and 14 relapsing), reduced expression of ESR1/ERα, IGFBP4, SNCG, BCL2, and FOS was observed in the relapsing group and was associated with a shorter overall survival. Low mRNA expression levels of ESR1/ERα, BCL2, and FOS were also associated with a shorter relapse-free survival (RFS). Using a Cox multivariate regression analysis, we identified BCL2 and FOS as independent prognostic markers associated with RFS. Finally, the BCL2/FOS signature was demonstrated to have more accurate prognostic value for RFS than ESR1/ERα alone (likelihood ratio test).
We identified molecular markers including a BCL2/FOS signature associated with tamoxifen failure; these markers may have clinical potential in the management of ER-positive breast cancer.
Background: Subgroups of breast cancer that have an impaired response to endocrine treatment, despite hormone receptor positivity, are still poorly defined. Breast cancer can be subdivided according to standard pathological parameters including histological type, grade, and assessment of proliferation. These parameters are the net result of combinations of genetic alterations effecting tumour behaviour and could potentially reflect subtypes that respond differently to endocrine treatment.
Aims: To investigate the usefulness of these parameters as predictors of the response to tamoxifen in premenopausal women with breast cancer.
Materials/methods: Clinically established pathological parameters were assessed and related to the tamoxifen response in 500 available tumour specimens from 564 premenopausal patients with breast cancer randomised to either two years of tamoxifen or no treatment with 14 years of follow up. Proliferation was further evaluated by immunohistochemical Ki-67 expression.
Results: Oestrogen receptor positive ductal carcinomas responded as expected to tamoxifen, whereas the difference in recurrence free survival between control and tamoxifen treated patients was less apparent in the relatively few lobular carcinomas. For histological grade, there was no obvious difference in treatment response between the groups. The relation between proliferation and tamoxifen response seemed to be more complex, with a clear response in tumours with high and low proliferation, whereas tumours with intermediate proliferation defined by Ki-67 responded more poorly.
Conclusions: Clinically established pathology parameters seem to mirror the endocrine treatment response and could potentially be valuable in future treatment decisions for patients with breast cancer.
breast cancer; oestrogen receptor; proliferation; lobular breast cancer; tamoxifen
Tamoxifen significantly improves outcome for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, but the 15-year recurrence rate remains 30%. The aim of this study was to identify gene profiles that accurately predicted the outcome of ER+ breast cancer patients who received adjuvant Tamoxifen mono-therapy.
Post-menopausal breast cancer patients diagnosed no later than 2002, being ER+ as defined by >1% IHC staining and having a frozen tumor sample with >50% tumor content were included. Tumor samples from 108 patients treated with adjuvant Tamoxifen were analyzed for the expression of 59 genes using quantitative-PCR. End-point was clinically verified recurrence to distant organs or ipsilateral breast. Gene profiles were identified using a model building procedure based on conditional logistic regression and leave-one-out cross-validation, followed by a non-parametric bootstrap (1000x re-sampling). The optimal profiles were further examined in 5 previously-reported datasets containing similar patient populations that were either treated with Tamoxifen or left untreated (n = 623). Three gene signatures were identified, the strongest being a 2-gene combination of BCL2-CDKN1A, exhibiting an accuracy of 75% for prediction of outcome. Independent examination using 4 previously-reported microarray datasets of Tamoxifen-treated patient samples (n = 503) confirmed the potential of BCL2-CDKN1A. The predictive value was further determined by comparing the ability of the genes to predict recurrence in an additional, previously-published, cohort consisting of Tamoxifen-treated (n = 58, p = 0.015) and untreated patients (n = 62, p = 0.25).
A novel gene expression signature predictive of outcome of Tamoxifen-treated patients was identified. The validation suggests that BCL2-CDKN1A exhibit promising predictive potential.
Estrogen plays important roles in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Endocrine therapies, such as the antiestrogen tamoxifen, antagonize the binding of estrogen to estrogen receptor (ER), whereas aromatase inhibitors (AIs) directly inhibit the production of estrogen. Understanding the mechanisms of endocrine resistance and the ways in which we may better treat these types of resistance has been aided by the development of cellular models for resistant breast cancers. In this review, we will discuss what is known thus far regarding both de novo and acquired resistance to tamoxifen or AIs. Our laboratory has generated a collection of AI- and tamoxifen-resistant cell lines in order to comprehensively study the individual types of resistance mechanisms. Through the use of microarray analysis, we have determined that our cell lines resistant to a particular AI (anastrozole, letrozole, or exemestane) or tamoxifen are distinct from each other, indicating that these mechanisms can be quite complex. Furthermore, we will describe two novel de novo AI-resistant cell lines that were generated from our laboratory. Initial characterization of these cells reveals that they are distinct from our acquired AI-resistant cell models. In addition, we will review potential therapies which may be useful for overcoming resistant breast cancers through studies using endocrine resistant cell lines. Finally, we will discuss the benefits and shortcomings of cell models. Together, the information presented in this review will provide us a better understanding of acquired and de novo resistance to tamoxifen and AI therapies, the use of appropriate cell models to better study these types of breast cancer, which are valuable for identifying novel treatments and strategies for overcoming both tamoxifen and AI-resistant breast cancers.
Models; endocrine resistance; tamoxifen; aromatase inhibitors
Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancers (BC) are heterogeneous with regard to their clinical behavior and response to therapies. The ER is currently the best predictor of response to the anti-estrogen agent tamoxifen, yet up to 30–40% of ER+BC will relapse despite tamoxifen treatment. New prognostic biomarkers and further biological understanding of tamoxifen resistance are required. We used gene expression profiling to develop an outcome-based predictor using a training set of 255 ER+ BC samples from women treated with adjuvant tamoxifen monotherapy. We used clusters of highly correlated genes to develop our predictor to facilitate both signature stability and biological interpretation. Independent validation was performed using 362 tamoxifen-treated ER+ BC samples obtained from multiple institutions and treated with tamoxifen only in the adjuvant and metastatic settings.
We developed a gene classifier consisting of 181 genes belonging to 13 biological clusters. In the independent set of adjuvantly-treated samples, it was able to define two distinct prognostic groups (HR 2.01 95%CI: 1.29–3.13; p = 0.002). Six of the 13 gene clusters represented pathways involved in cell cycle and proliferation. In 112 metastatic breast cancer patients treated with tamoxifen, one of the classifier components suggesting a cellular inflammatory mechanism was significantly predictive of response.
We have developed a gene classifier that can predict clinical outcome in tamoxifen-treated ER+ BC patients. Whilst our study emphasizes the important role of proliferation genes in prognosis, our approach proposes other genes and pathways that may elucidate further mechanisms that influence clinical outcome and prediction of response to tamoxifen.
Risk factors for the newly identified “intrinsic” breast cancer subtypes (luminal A, luminal B, basal-like and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive/estrogen receptor-negative) were determined in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, a population-based, case–control study of African-American and white women. Immunohistochemical markers were used to subtype 1,424 cases of invasive and in situ breast cancer, and case subtypes were compared to 2,022 controls. Luminal A, the most common subtype, exhibited risk factors typically reported for breast cancer in previous studies, including inverse associations for increased parity and younger age at first full-term pregnancy. Basal-like cases exhibited several associations that were opposite to those observed for luminal A, including increased risk for parity and younger age at first term full-term pregnancy. Longer duration breastfeeding, increasing number of children breastfed, and increasing number of months breastfeeding per child were each associated with reduced risk of basal-like breast cancer, but not luminal A. Women with multiple live births who did not breastfeed and women who used medications to suppress lactation were at increased risk of basal-like, but not luminal A, breast cancer. Elevated waist-hip ratio was associated with increased risk of luminal A in postmenopausal women, and increased risk of basal-like breast cancer in pre- and postmenopausal women. The prevalence of basal-like breast cancer was highest among premenopausal African-American women, who also showed the highest prevalence of basal-like risk factors. Among younger African-American women, we estimate that up to 68% of basal-like breast cancer could be prevented by promoting breastfeeding and reducing abdominal adiposity.
Breast cancer subtypes; molecular epidemiology
The present study examined the effect of dietary genistein, a soy isoflavone, on breast cancer patients who take tamoxifen, an antiestrogen treatment, using a preclinical model. The interaction of various doses of genistein with tamoxifen on the growth of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer MCF-7 cells was investigated by subcutaneously injecting MCF-7 cells into the flank of ovariectomized athymic mice. Animals were randomized into eight experimental groups with 10–13 mice per group: control (C), estrogen (E) (0.08 mg E implant), tamoxifen (T) (3 mg T implant), estrogen + tamoxifen (E + T), tamoxifen + 500 p.p.m. genistein (T + G500), estrogen + tamoxifen + 250 p.p.m. genistein (E + T + G250), estrogen + tamoxifen + 500 p.p.m. genistein (E + T + G500) and estrogen + tamoxifen + 1000 p.p.m. genistein (E + T + G1000). Treatment of tamoxifen significantly reduced the estrogen-induced MCF-7 tumor prevalence and tumor size. This inhibitory effect of tamoxifen was significantly negated by the low doses of dietary genistein (250 and 500 p.p.m.), whereas the 1000 p.p.m. genistein did not have the same effect. Cells harvested from tamoxifen-treated tumors retained estrogen responsiveness of their progenitor MCF-7 cells, indicating that the abrogating effect of genistein on tamoxifen-treated tumor growth was not caused by a diminished tamoxifen response but directly by genistein. The low doses of dietary genistein abrogated the inhibitory effect of tamoxifen potentially by acting on the tumor cell proliferation/apoptosis ratio and the messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of cyclin D1 in addition to regulating the mRNA expression of progesterone receptor. Therefore, data from the current study suggest that caution is warranted regarding the consumption of dietary genistein by breast cancer patients while on tamoxifen therapy.
Estrogen receptor (ER) status is not an optimal marker for response to adjuvant endocrine therapy since approximately 30% of patients with ER-positive tumors eventually relapse. Bcl-2 is regulated by ER and may thus be considered as an indicator of ER activity and a candidate supplementary marker to ER status.
Patients and methods
Tumor tissue from 257 patients with ER-positive breast cancer treated with tamoxifen was used for determination of the best threshold for immunohistochemical Bcl-2 assessment as prognostic marker. Subsequently, samples from the Danish patients of the randomized clinical trial BIG 1 - 98 comprising 1191 ER-positive patients treated with tamoxifen, letrozole or a sequence of the two were immunohistochemically stained for Bcl-2 to further explore the prognostic value of Bcl-2.
Two Bcl-2 levels were found to divide the population of the primary study into significantly different groups according to disease-free survival (DFS). Multivariate analysis confirmed the significance of the lowest level, and showed Bcl-2 to be an independent prognostic marker. Analysis of the Danish cohort of the BIG 1 - 98 confirmed that Bcl-2 was a significant predictor of DFS, independent of known prognostic markers. However, in an additional analysis of a subset of the Danish cohort of BIG 1 - 98 including only HER-2 normal patients, the effect of Bcl-2 was not statistically significant.
Low Bcl-2 can predict poor outcome of patients with ER-positive tumors treated with adjuvant endocrine therapy, whereas the use of Bcl-2 for determination of addition of chemotherapy was not supported by this study.
Background Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer tumors depend on estrogen signaling for their growth and replication and can be treated by anti-estrogen therapy with tamoxifen. Polymorphisms of the CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 genes are associated with an impaired response to tamoxifen. The study objective was to investigate the impact of genetic polymorphisms in CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 on the pharmacokinetics of tamoxifen and its metabolites in Spanish women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer who were candidates for tamoxifen therapy.
Methods: We studied 90 women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, using the AmpliChip CYP450 test to determine CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 gene variants. Plasma levels of tamoxifen and its metabolites were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography.
Results The CYP2D6 phenotype was extensive metabolizer in 80%, intermediate metabolizer in 12.2%, ultra-rapid metabolizer in 2.2%, and poor metabolizer in 5.6% of patients, and the allele frequency was 35.0% for allele *1, 21.0% for *2, and 18.9% for *4. All poor metabolizers in this series were *4/*4, and their endoxifen and 4-hydroxy tamoxifen levels were 25% lower than those of extensive metabolizers. CYP2C19*2 allele, which has been related to breast cancer outcomes, was detected in 15.6% of the studied alleles.
Conclusion CYP2D6*4/*4 genotype was inversely associated with 4-hydroxy tamoxifen and endoxifen levels. According to these results, CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 genotyping appears advisable before the prescription of tamoxifen therapy.
CYP2D6; CYP2C19; genetic diagnosis; estrogen-positive breast cancer; endoxifen; tamoxifen
Previous research identified differences in breast cancer-specific mortality across four "intrinsic" tumor subtypes: luminal A, luminal B, basal-like, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positive/estrogen receptor negative (HER2+/ER−).
We used immunohistochemical markers to subtype 1149 invasive breast cancer patients (518 African American, 631 white) in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, a population-based study of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Vital status was determined through 2006 using the National Death Index, with median follow-up of 9 years.
Cancer subtypes luminal A, luminal B, basal-like and HER2+/ER- were distributed as 64%, 11%, 11% and 5% for whites, and 48%, 8%, 22% and 7% for African Americans, respectively. Breast cancer mortality was higher for patients with HER2+/ER- and basal-like breast cancer compared to luminal A and B. African Americans had higher breast-cancer specific mortality than whites, but the effect of race was statistically significant only among women with luminal A breast cancer. However, when compared to the luminal A subtype within racial categories, mortality for patients with basal-like breast cancer was higher among whites (HR=2.0, 95% CI: 1.2, 3.4) than African Americans (HR=1.5, 95% CI: 1.0, 2.4), with the strongest effect seen in postmenopausal white women (HR=3.9, 95% CI: 1.5, 10.0).
Our results confirm the association of basal-like breast cancer with poor prognosis, and suggest that basal-like breast cancer is not an inherently more aggressive disease in African American women compared to whites. Additional analyses are needed in populations with known treatment profiles to understand the role of tumor subtypes and race in breast cancer mortality, and in particular our finding that among women with luminal A breast cancer, African Americans have higher mortality than whites.
Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Subtypes; Race; Survival; Epidemiology
New, third-generation aromatase inhibitors (AIs) have proven comparable or superior to the anti-estrogen tamoxifen for treatment of estrogen receptor (ER) and/or progesterone receptor (PR) positive breast cancer. AIs suppress total body and intratumoral estrogen levels. It is unclear whether in situ carcinoma cell aromatization is the primary source of estrogen production for tumor growth and whether the aromatase expression is predictive of response to endocrine therapy. Due to methodological difficulties in the determination of the aromatase protein, COX-2, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of aromatase, has been suggested as a surrogate marker for aromatase expression.
Primary tumor material was retrospectively collected from 88 patients who participated in a randomized clinical trial comparing the AI letrozole to the anti-estrogen tamoxifen for first-line treatment of advanced breast cancer. Semi-quantitative immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis was performed for ER, PR, COX-2 and aromatase using Tissue Microarrays (TMAs). Aromatase was also analyzed using whole sections (WS). Kappa analysis was applied to compare association of protein expression levels. Univariate Wilcoxon analysis and the Cox-analysis were performed to evaluate time to progression (TTP) in relation to marker expression.
Aromatase expression was associated with ER, but not with PR or COX-2 expression in carcinoma cells. Measurements of aromatase in WS were not comparable to results from TMAs. Expression of COX-2 and aromatase did not predict response to endocrine therapy. Aromatase in combination with high PR expression may select letrozole treated patients with a longer TTP.
TMAs are not suitable for IHC analysis of in situ aromatase expression and we did not find COX-2 expression in carcinoma cells to be a surrogate marker for aromatase. In situ aromatase expression in tumor cells is associated with ER expression and may thus point towards good prognosis. Aromatase expression in cancer cells is not predictive of response to endocrine therapy, indicating that in situ estrogen synthesis may not be the major source of intratumoral estrogen. However, aromatase expression in combination with high PR expression may select letrozole treated patients with longer TTP.
Sub-study of trial P025 for advanced breast cancer.