Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are the most effective class of drugs in the endocrine treatment of breast cancer, with an approximate 50% treatment response rate. Our objective was to determine whether intratumoral expression levels of estrogen-related genes are predictive of AI responsiveness in postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Primary breast carcinomas were obtained from 112 women who received AI therapy after failing adjuvant tamoxifen therapy and developing recurrent breast cancer. Tumor ERα and PR protein expression were analyzed by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of 5 estrogen-related genes-AKR1C3, aromatase, ERα, and 2 estradiol/ERα target genes, BRCA1 and PR-were measured by real-time PCR. Tumor protein and mRNA levels were compared with breast cancer progression rates to determine predictive accuracy. Responsiveness to AI therapy-defined as the combined complete response, partial response, and stable disease rates for at least 6 months-was 51%; rates were 56% in ERα-IHC-positive and 14% in ERα-IHC-negative tumors. Levels of ERα, PR, or BRCA1 mRNA were independently predictive for responsiveness to AI. In cross-validated analyses, a combined measurement of tumor ERα and PR mRNA levels yielded a more superior specificity (36%) and identical sensitivity (96%) to the current clinical practice (ERα/PR-IHC). In patients with ERα/PR-IHC-negative tumors, analysis of mRNA expression revealed either non-significant trends or statistically significant positive predictive values for AI responsiveness. In conclusion, expression levels of estrogen-related mRNAs are predictive for AI responsiveness in postmenopausal women with breast cancer, and mRNA expression analysis may improve patient selection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)