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Clin Cancer Res. 2003 Jan;9(1 Pt 2):524S-32S.

Integration of signal transduction inhibitors with endocrine therapy: an approach to overcoming hormone resistance in breast cancer.

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  • 1Departments of Medicine and Academic Biochemistry, Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, London SW3 6JJ, United Kingdom.


Recent evidence suggests that common molecular adaptations occur during resistance to both tamoxifen and estrogen deprivation that use various signal transduction pathways, often involving cross-talk with a retained and functional estrogen receptor (ER) protein. There appear to be several different levels at which this cross-talk may occur, including peptide growth factor signaling via the type 1 tyrosine kinase growth factor receptor family [epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and HER2], which may become up-regulated during endocrine treatment, ultimately being harnessed by cells to allow them hormone-independent growth. ER may remain involved in cell growth with ligand-independent phosphorylation and activation via different intracellular mitogen-activated protein kinases. ER may also become involved in non-nuclear estrogen-dependent signaling via interaction with the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/Akt cell survival pathway or may interact with the stress-activated protein kinase/c-Jun-NH(2)-terminal kinase pathway. Understanding these mechanisms will permit the optimal integration of new signal transduction inhibitors (STIs) into breast cancer therapy. Preclinical approaches that have shown promise include the use of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors for hormone-resistant breast cancer cells that are dependent on either EGFR or HER2 signaling. Likewise, farnesyl transferase inhibitors, mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitors, and cell cycle inhibitors have all shown activity in experimental breast cancer models. Emerging data suggest that STIs may be more effective when given in combination with endocrine therapy either to overcome resistance or to prevent/delay emergence of the resistance phenotype. Clinical trials are in progress to determine the safety and optimal schedule for each of the various STIs, and studies of STIs in combination with aromatase inhibitors have commenced in breast cancer to see whether the therapeutic response to endocrine therapy can be enhanced further.

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