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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Feb;131(3):731-41. doi: 10.1007/s10549-011-1431-4. Epub 2011 Mar 9.

ADAM12 induces estrogen-independence in breast cancer cells.

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The Program in Vascular Biology, Department of Surgery, 12.214, Karp Research Building, Children's Hospital, Boston and Harvard Medical School, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.


Antiestrogen therapy has been used successfully to prolong disease-free and overall survival of ER positive breast cancer patients. However, 50% of patients with ER+ tumors fail to respond to such therapy or eventually acquire resistance to endocrine therapy, resulting in tumor progression and mortality. It is imperative, therefore, to understand the mechanisms that lead to hormone refractory breast cancer in order to develop therapeutics that can modulate the resistance to antiestrogen therapy. The protease, ADAM12, can be detected in the urine of breast cancer patients and its levels correlate with disease status, stage, and cancer risk. Within the context of this study, the authors have investigated the role of the two distinct isoforms of ADAM12 in breast tumor cell proliferation and as potential mediators of endocrine resistance. Using stable clones of ADAM12-overexpressing MCF-7 cells, the authors analyzed proliferation rates of these ER+ breast tumor cells both in estrogen-depleted medium and in the presence of the antiestrogens, tamoxifen, and ICI 182,780. Acquired estrogen resistance in these cells was analyzed using phospho-RTK analysis. Upregulation and phosphorylation of proteins were detected via immunoprecipitation and immunoblotting. EGFR and MAPK inhibitors were used to explore the mechanism of acquired estrogen resistance in breast tumor cells. It was observed that overexpression of the two isoforms, transmembrane ADAM12-L, and secreted ADAM12-S, in breast tumor cells promoted estrogen-independent proliferation. In ADAM12-L-expressing cells, estrogen-independence was a direct result of increased EGFR expression and MAPK activation, whereas, the mechanism in ADAM12-S-expressing cells may be enhanced IGF-1R signaling. The importance of the EGFR signaling pathway in the estrogen-independent growth of ADAM12-L expressing cells was highlighted by the effect of EGFR inhibitors AG1478 and PD15035 or MAPK inhibitor U0126, each of which abolished the antiestrogen resistance in these cells. Taken together, these results demonstrate that ADAM12 isoforms confer a proliferative advantage to MCF-7 cells in the absence of estrogen stimulation, and suggest that downregulation of ADAM12 in combination with endocrine therapy may represent a useful pharmacological approach to breast cancer therapy.

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