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Br J Cancer. 2009 Oct 20;101(8):1253-60. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605324. Epub 2009 Sep 15.

Nuclear receptor co-activators and HER-2/neu are upregulated in breast cancer patients during neo-adjuvant treatment with aromatase inhibitors.

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Institute of Medicine, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.



Acquired resistance to endocrine therapy in breast cancer is poorly understood. Characterisation of the molecular response to aromatase inhibitors in breast cancer tissue may provide important information regarding development of oestrogen hypersensitivity.


We examined the expression levels of nuclear receptor co-regulators, the orphan nuclear receptor liver receptor homologue-1 and HER-2/neu growth factor receptor using real-time RT-PCR before and after 13-16 weeks of primary medical treatment with the aromatase inhibitors anastrozole or letrozole.


mRNA expression of the steroid receptor co-activator 1 (SRC-1) and peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator-1alpha (PGC-1alpha) was correlated (P=0.002), and both co-activators increased during treatment in the patient group as a whole (P=0.008 and P=0.032, respectively), as well as in the subgroup of patients achieving an objective treatment response (P=0.002 and P=0.006). Although we recorded no significant change in SRC-3/amplified in breast cancer 1 level, the expression correlated positively to the change of SRC-1 (P=0.002). Notably, we recorded an increase in HER-2/neu levels during therapy in the total patient group (18 out of 26; P=0.016), but in particular among responders (15 out of 21; P=0.008).


Our results show an upregulation of co-activator mRNA and HER-2/neu during treatment with aromatase inhibitors. These mechanisms may represent an early adaption of the breast cancer cells to oestrogen deprivation in vivo.

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