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Br J Cancer. 1982 Jan;45(1):80-5.

Effects of endocrine therapy on steroid-receptor content of breast cancer.


In order to determine the mechanisms of relapse following response to endocrine therapy, we have measured the oestrogen receptor (RE) content of biopsies of breast cancer in patients receiving various types of endocrine treatment. RE content fell in responding (means of 260.2 to 12 fmol/mg protein) and in nonresponding (means of 155.1 to 31.8 fmol/mg protein) patients who had measurable receptor at the start of treatment. Some of these patients, and a further group of responders to endocrine therapy, were monitored until relapse. Tumour biopsies at the time of relapse showed that 10/14 tumour samples contained significant RE (mean of 86.7 fmol/mg protein; range less than 10-271 fmol/mg protein) after successful endocrine therapy. No relationship could be found between RE content and plasma gonadotrophin or steroid-hormone concentration, but the fall in RE content correlated with reduced numbers of tumour cells in the biopsy. These results indicate that relapse following successful endocrine therapy in breast cancer does not appear to be due to the emergence of RE-negative tumour cells. The fall in RE content during response to endocrine therapy may be due to reduced tumour-cell content of the biopsy.

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