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Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Mar 1;19(5):1094-105. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-3039. Epub 2013 Jan 14.

Lack of estrogen receptor-α is associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition and PI3K alterations in endometrial carcinoma.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway.



We hypothesized that estrogen receptor-α (ER-α) status in endometrial carcinomas, associated with poor prognosis, is reflected in transcriptional signatures suggesting targets for new therapy.


Endometrial carcinoma samples in a primary investigation cohort (n = 76) and three independent validation cohorts (n = 155/286/111) were analyzed through integrated molecular profiling. Biomarkers were assessed by immunohistochemistry (IHC), DNA oligonucleotide microarray, quantitative PCR (qPCR), single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array, and Sanger sequencing in the cohorts, annotated for comprehensive histopathologic and clinical data, including follow-up.


ER-α immunohistochemical staining was strongly associated with mRNA expression of the receptor gene (ESR1) and patient survival (both P < 0.001). ER-α negativity associated with activation of genes involved in Wnt-, Sonic Hedgehog-, and TGF-β signaling in the investigation cohort, indicating epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The association between low ER-α and EMT was validated in three independent datasets. Furthermore, phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and mTOR inhibitors were among the top-ranked drug signatures negatively correlated with the ER-α-negative tumors. Low ER-α was significantly associated with PIK3CA amplifications but not mutations. Also, low ER-α was correlated to high expression of Stathmin, a marker associated with PTEN loss, and a high PI3K activation signature.


Lack of ER-α in endometrial cancer is associated with EMT and reduced survival. We present a rationale for investigating ER-α's potential to predict response to PI3K/mTOR inhibitors in clinical trials and also suggest EMT inhibitors to ER-α-negative endometrial carcinomas.

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