Antitumor action of physiological estradiol on tamoxifen-stimulated breast tumors grown in athymic mice

Kathy Yao, Eun Sook Lee, David J. Bentrem, Gale England, Jennifer I Mac Gregor Schafer, Ruth M. O'Regan, V. Craig Jordan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


The estrogen receptor (ER)-positive MCF-7 breast cancer cell line can be transplanted into athymic mice and grown into tumors with estradiol (E2) support. Tamoxifen (TAM) blocks E2-stimulated tumor growth; however, continuous TAM treatment results in transplantable tumors within a year that will grow with either E2 or TAM (M. M. Gottardis and V. C. Jordan, Cancer Res., 48: 5183-5187, 1988). Although this model may represent the development of TAM resistance for the treatment of advanced breast cancer, no laboratory model exists to study the exposure of breast cancer to 5 years of adjuvant TAM therapy. We have addressed this issue and report the development and characterization of two tumor lines, MCF-7TAM and MT2, which have been serially transplanted into TAM-treated athymic mice for >5 years. The MCF- 7TAM tumor rapidly regresses in response to E2 and then about 50% of tumors regrow in response to E2. Interestingly, tumor regression does not occur if TAM treatment is stopped, probably because E2 levels are too low in ovariectomized athymic mice. The development of the antitumor effect of E2 was documented for MT2 tumors over a 1-year period; TAM-stimulated tumor growth was retained, but E2 caused progressively less of a stimulatory effect. Most importantly, E2-stimulated tumors that regrew after initial tumor regression in both MCF-7TAM and MT2 lines were again responsive to TAM to block E2-stimulated growth. Unlike MCF-7 tumors, the MT2 tumor line contains a single point mutation, Asp351Tyr, in the ER, which was retained after the development of E2-stimulated regrowth. The mutation is associated with increased estrogen-like actions for the TAM-ER complex (A. S. Levenson et al., Br. J. Cancer, 77: 1812-1819, 1998), but we conclude that the mutant ER is not required for TAM resistance. On the basis of the new breast cancer models presented, we propose a cyclic sensitivity to TAM that may have important clinical implications: (a) it is possible that a woman's own estrogen may produce an antitumor effect on the presensitized micrometastatic disease after 5 years of TAM. Long-term antitumor action occurs because the drug is stopped, but resistance accumulates and tumors start to grow if adjuvant therapy is continued; and (b) although in the clinic TAM-resistant tumors respond to second-line therapies that cause estrogen withdrawal, e.g., pure antiestrogens or aromatase inhibitors, estrogen therapy may also be effective and return the tumor to TAM responsiveness. In this way, a hormone- responsive tumor may be controlled longer in the patient with advanced disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2028-2036
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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