Oestrogen receptors alpha and beta show different associations to clinicopathological parameters and their co-expression might predict a better response to endocrine treatment in breast cancer

S Borgquist, C Holm, M Stendahl, L Anagnostaki, G Landberg, K Jirström
Journal of Clinical Pathology 2008, 61 (2): 197-203

AIMS: The majority of all breast cancers are hormone responsive, traditionally defined by the expression of oestrogen receptor (ER) alpha and/or progesterone receptors. In contrast to ERalpha, the clinical significance of the relatively recently identified ERbeta is still unclear. This study aimed to define the relationship between ERbeta and clinicopathological parameters in a mixed cohort of breast cancer and, furthermore, to investigate the impact of ERbeta expression on disease outcome.

METHODS: The immunohistochemical expression of ERalpha and ERbeta was analysed in tissue microarrays containing a total number of 512 tumours with all incident breast cancers diagnosed at the Malmö University Hospital between 1988 and 1992.

RESULTS: 78% of the tumours were ERalpha positive and 50% were ERbeta positive. ERbeta correlated positively with ERalpha (p = 0.001). In contrast to ERalpha, ERbeta was not associated with any important clinicopathological variables. Furthermore, no overall prognostic significance could be demonstrated for ERbeta. In the ERalpha-positive subgroup, however, a low expression of ERbeta correlated with a decreased disease-free survival in patients receiving endocrine treatment (p = 0.003).

CONCLUSIONS: Although interrelated, ERalpha and ERbeta seem to be differentially associated to clinicopathological parameters, and this would support the fact that they might have different functions in vivo. Furthermore, ERbeta might be a predictive marker of response to endocrine therapy, although this needs to be confirmed in additional studies, preferably randomised trials.

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