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Genes Dev. 2010 Oct 1;24(19):2219-27. doi: 10.1101/gad.1944810.

Growth factor stimulation induces a distinct ER(alpha) cistrome underlying breast cancer endocrine resistance.

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Division of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Estrogen receptor α (ERα) expression in breast cancer is predictive of response to endocrine therapy; however, resistance is common in ERα-positive tumors that overexpress the growth factor receptor ERBB2. Even in the absence of estrogen, ERα can be activated by growth factors, including the epidermal growth factor (EGF). EGF induces a transcriptional program distinct from estrogen; however, the mechanism of the stimulus-specific response is unknown. Here we show that the EGF-induced ERα genomic targets, its cistromes, are distinct from those induced by estrogen in a process dependent on the transcription factor AP-1. The EGF-induced ERα cistrome specifically regulates genes found overexpressed in ERBB2-positive human breast cancers. This provides a potential molecular explanation for the endocrine therapy resistance seen in ERα-positive breast cancers that overexpress ERBB2. These results suggest a central role for ERα in hormone-refractory breast tumors dependent on growth factor pathway activation and favors the development of therapeutic strategies completely antagonizing ERα, as opposed to blocking its estrogen responsiveness alone.

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