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Toxicology. 2005 Jan 5;206(1):91-109.

Gene expression changes induced by estrogen and selective estrogen receptor modulators in primary-cultured human endometrial cells: signals that distinguish the human carcinogen tamoxifen.

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Cancer Genomics Program, Department of Pathology, Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 2XZ, UK.


Tamoxifen has long been the endocrine treatment of choice for women with breast cancer and is now employed for prophylactic use in women at high risk from breast cancer. Other selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), such as raloxifene, mimic some of tamoxifen's beneficial effects and, like tamoxifen, exhibit a complex mixture of organ-specific estrogen agonist and antagonistic properties. However, accompanying the positive effects of tamoxifen has been the emergence of evidence for an increased risk of endometrial cancer associated with its use. A more complete understanding of the mechanism(s) of SERM carcinogenicity and endometrial effects is therefore required. We have sought to compare and characterise the transcript profile of tamoxifen, raloxifene and the agonist estradiol in human endometrial cells. Using primary cultures of human endometria, to best emulate the in vivo responses in a manageable in vitro system, we have shown 230 significant changes in gene expression for epithelial cultures and 83 in stromal cultures, either specific to 17beta-estradiol, tamoxifen or raloxifene, or changed across more than one of the treatments. Considering the transcriptome as a whole, the endometrial responses to raloxifene or tamoxifen were more similar than either drug was to 17beta-estradiol. Treatment of endometrial cultures with tamoxifen resulted in the largest number of gene changes relative to control cultures and a high proportion of genes associated with regulation of gene transcription, cell-cycle control and signal transduction. Tamoxifen-specific changes that might point towards mechanisms for its proliferative response in the endometrium included changes in retinoblastoma and c-myc binding proteins, the APCL, dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and E2F1 genes and other transcription factors. Tamoxifen was also found to give rise to the highest number of gene expression changes common to those that characterise malignant endometria. It is anticipated that this study will provide leads for further and more focused investigation into SERM carcinogenicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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