Study discover how breast cancer cells lose their ER expression

The recent study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by a group of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine reveals a mechanism that not only explains the process but also suggests solutions to circumvent it.
Representative Image
Representative ImageANI

TEXAS: Study revealed that one-fourth of recurrent oestrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers lack ER expression, they are resistant to endocrine treatment and can grow uncontrollably.

The recent study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by a group of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine reveals a mechanism that not only explains the process but also suggests solutions to circumvent it.

"For years, our goal has been to tease out the complex puzzle of breast cancer progression to understand how the players interact with each other to confer resistance to therapy and persistent growth," said corresponding author Dr Weei-Chin Lin, professor of medicine-haematology and oncology and of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor.

"Our goal is to overcome this hurdle to restore ER receptor expression in these cancers so they become susceptible to therapy again, giving patients a better chance for recovery."

How breast cancer cells lose their ER Breast cancer resistance to endocrine therapy has previously been linked to two cellular proteins known as 14-3-3 and ER-36.

"Working with a mouse model of human ER+ breast cancer, we were surprised to find that over-expressing 14-3-3t in these tumours led to all the cancer cells becoming ER-negative (ER-)," said Lin, a member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"I still remember the day I saw the data. The change was dramatic - all the tumours had lost their ER!" Studying the mechanism in animal models would be labour-intensive, time-consuming and expensive, so the researchers developed an alternative model.

First author Lidija A. Wilhelms Garan, a student in Baylor's Cancer and Cell Biology Graduate Program working in the Lin lab, developed a spheroid model of human breast cancer cells that mimics the progression from ER+ to ER- and provides a handy experimental tool for future investigation.

"In a patient, a breast tumour can take years to progress from ER+ to ER-, in our animal model it takes several months but in our spheroid model it switches from ER+ to ER- in 1 to 2 weeks," Garan said.

In the lab spheroid model, the team found that once 14-3-3t is over-expressed in cancer cells under the right conditions, the cells will increase their levels of ERa36 and this is followed by ER loss. "Other molecular players, such as AKT and GATA3, also are required," Garan said.

"Importantly, we also found that factors produced by the tumour microenvironment, which includes fibroblasts and immune cells that are part of the tumour mass and cross-talk with the cancer cells, also are essential for the progression from ER+ to ER-."

"We knew that 14-3-3t, ERa36, AKT and GATA3 were the key players in turning ER+ breast cancer cells into ER- cells. Here we have determined how they functionally interact with each other, laying out a map of the road that leads to ER loss," Lin said.

"I am very excited that with our spheroid breast cancer model we now have a valuable tool to study not only the cellular changes involved in breast cancer progression but also to test drugs for their ability to inhibit the process that leads to ER loss."

"The protein 14-3-3t is overexpressed in about 60% of breast cancers. Not all patients with high 14-3-3t will lose the ER, but for those who do, our findings may one day help restore their tumours to a therapy-sensitive state," Garan said.

"The translational aspect of this research has always been close to my heart - to bring discoveries to the clinic and improve people's lives."

Visit news.dtnext.in to explore our interactive epaper!

Download the DT Next app for more exciting features!

Click here for iOS

Click here for Android

Related Stories

No stories found.
DT next
www.dtnext.in