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Microarray studies reveal novel genes associated with endocrine resistance in breast cancer


Endocrine resistance is a major hurdle in breast cancer management, and determining the underlying factors driving its growth and aggressive behaviour should vastly improve treatment.


Microarray technology (BD Atlas Plastic Human 12 K Microarrays; GeneSifter software), verified by PCR, western blotting and immunocytochemisty, was used to identify genes increased in acquired resistant models to tamoxifen (TamR) or faslodex (FasR) as potential predictive/prognostic markers and new therapeutic targets.


Alongside known breast cancer genes (β-catenin, PEA3, vitronectin, CD44), two novel genes in endocrine resistance were revealed (the latter never previously described in breast cancer): a securin/cell cycle regulator Pituitary Tumour Transforming Gene-1 (PTTG1), and GDNF receptor-alpha 3 (GFRα3) reported to promote cell survival signalling via RET coreceptor. Altered levels of PTTG1, GFRα3, or their associated family members were observed in further endocrine resistant states, including an additional faslodex resistant model that has progressed to a highly-aggressive state (FasR-Lt) and XMCF-7 cells resistant to oestrogen deprivation. PTTG1 and GFRα3 induction were also implicated in limiting response to anti-EGFR agents currently in breast cancer trials, with GFRα3 ligand (artemin) largely overcoming drug response. mRNA studies in clinical disease revealed PTTG1 associated with lymph node spread, high tumour grade and proliferation, while GFRα3 was enriched in ER-negative tumours and those expressing EGFR, profiles implying roles in clinical resistance and aggressive tumour behaviour. Promisingly, PTTG1 or GFRα3 siRNA knockdown promoted cell kill and inhibited proliferation in the resistant models.


Cumulatively, these data indicate PTTG1 and GFRα3 may provide useful biomarkers, and perhaps clinically relevant therapeutic targets for multiple resistant states.


Funding from Breast Cancer Campaign is gratefully acknowledged.

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Burmi, R., McClelland, R., Barrow, D. et al. Microarray studies reveal novel genes associated with endocrine resistance in breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res 8 (Suppl 2), S11 (2006).

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