Research Papers:

PELP-1 regulates adverse responses to endocrine therapy in Estrogen Receptor (ER) positive breast cancer

Michael Rees _, Chris Smith, Peter Barrett-Lee and Steve Hiscox _

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Oncotarget. 2020; 11:4722-4734. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27846

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Michael Rees1,2, Chris Smith1, Peter Barrett-Lee2 and Steve Hiscox1

1 Breast Cancer Molecular Pharmacology Group, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

2 Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, UK

Correspondence to:

Michael Rees,email: [email protected]
Steve Hiscox,email: [email protected]

Keywords: breast cancer; PELP-1; ER+; invasion

Received: August 25, 2020     Accepted: November 20, 2020     Published: December 22, 2020

Copyright: © 2020 Rees et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Introduction: Endocrine therapy has played an important role in the management of ER positive breast cancer over recent decades. Despite this, not all patients respond equally to endocrine intervention, which can lead to resistance, associated disease relapse and progression. Previous reports suggest that endocrine agents themselves may induce an invasive phenotype in ER positive breast cancers with low/aberrant expression of E-cadherin. Here we investigate this phenomenon further and provide data supporting a role for the ER co-receptor, PELP-1, in mediating an adverse response to endocrine agents.

Materials and Methods: The effects of tamoxifen, fulvestrant and estrogen withdrawal (as a model for aromatase inhibitor therapy) on the invasive and migratory capacity of endocrine-sensitive MCF-7 and T47D cells, in the presence or absence of functional E-cadherin and/or PELP-1 (using siRNA knockdown), was assessed via Matrigel invasion and Boyden chamber migration assays. The effects of these endocrine therapies alongside E-cadherin/PELP-1 modulation on cell proliferation were further assessed by MTT assay. Western blotting using phospho-specific antibodies was performed to investigate signalling pathway changes associated with endocrine-induced changes in invasion and migration.

Results: Both tamoxifen and fulvestrant induced a pro-invasive and pro-migratory phenotype in ER positive breast cancer cells displaying a high basal expression of PELP-1, which was augmented in the context of poor cell-cell contact. This process occurred in a Src-dependent manner with Src inhibition reversing endocrine induced invasion/migration. While this adverse response was observed using both tamoxifen and fulvestrant therapy, it was not observed under conditions of estrogen withdrawal.

Conclusions: Our data confirms previous reports that anti-estrogens induce an adverse cell phenotype in ER+ breast cancer, particularly in the absence of homotypic cell contact. These results implicate E-cadherin and PELP-1 as potential biomarkers when deciding upon optimum adjuvant endocrine therapy, whereby tumours with high PELP-1/low E-cadherin expression may benefit from estrogen withdrawal therapy via aromatase inhibition, as opposed to ER modulation/antagonism.

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