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J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2000 Jul;5(3):271-81.

Estrogen receptor alpha in human breast cancer: occurrence and significance.

Author information

  • 1CRC Laboratories, Department of Cancer Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London.

Abstract

Estrogens have long been recognized as being important for stimulating the growth of a large proportion of breast cancers. Now it is recognized that estrogen action is mediated by two receptors, and the presence of estrogen receptor alpha (ER alpha) correlates with better prognosis and the likelihood of response to hormonal therapy. Over half of all breast cancers overexpress ER alpha and around 70% of these respond to anti-estrogen (for example tamoxifen) therapy. In addition, the presence of elevated levels of ER alpha in benign breast epithelium appears to indicate an increased risk of breast cancer, suggesting a role for ER alpha in breast cancer initiation, as well as progression. However, a proportion of ER alpha-positive tumors does not respond to endocrine therapy and the majority of those that do respond eventually become resistant. Most resistant tumors remain ER alpha-positive and frequently respond to alternative endocrine treatment, indicative of a continued role for ER alpha in breast cancer cell proliferation. The problem of resistance has resulted in the search for and the development of diverse hormonal therapies designed to inhibit ER alpha action, while research on the mechanisms which underlie resistance has shed light on the cellular mechanisms, other than ligand binding, which control ER alpha function.

PMID:
14973389
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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