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The Utility of SOX2 and AGR2 Biomarkers as Early Predictors of Tamoxifen Resistance in ER-Positive Breast Cancer Patients.

BACKGROUND: Despite the undeniable benefit of tamoxifen therapy for ER-positive breast cancer patients, approximately one-third of those patients either do not respond to tamoxifen or develop resistance. Thus, it is a crucial step to identify novel, reliable, and easily detectable biomarkers indicating resistance to this drug.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this work is to explore SOX2 and AGR2 biomarker expression in the tumor tissue of ER-positive breast cancer patients in combination with the evaluation of serum AGR2 level of these patients in order to validate these biomarkers as early predictors of tamoxifen resistance.

METHODS: This study was conducted on 224 ER-positive breast cancer patients. All patients were primarily subjected to serum AGR2 levelling by ELISA and their breast cancer tissue immunostained for SOX2 and AGR2. After 5 years of follow-up, the patients were divided into 3 groups: group 1 was tamoxifen sensitive and groups 2 and 3 were tamoxifen resistant. Time to failure of tamoxifen treatment was considered the time from the beginning of tamoxifen therapy to the time of discovery of breast cancer recurrence or metastases (in months).

RESULTS: SOX2 and AGR2 biomarkers expression and serum AGR2 level were significantly higher in groups 2 and 3 in comparison to group 1, while the relationship between Her2 neu expression and Ki67 index in the 3 different groups was statistically nonsignificant. Lower SOX2 and AGR2 expression and low AGR2 serum levels in the studied patients of groups 2 and 3 were significantly associated with longer time-to-failure of tamoxifen treatment. According to the ROC curve, the combined use of studied markers validity was with a sensitivity of 100%, specificity of 96%, PPV 96%, and NPV 100% ( p < 0.001; AUC: 0.984).

CONCLUSIONS: Integrated use of SOX2 and AGR2 biomarkers with serum AGR2 assay holds a promising hope for their future use as predictive markers for early detection of tamoxifen resistance in ER-positive breast cancer patients.

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