Estrogen receptor α content is the primary breast cancer biomarker distinguishing the patients responsive from the non-responsive to endocrine treatments. Tamoxifen is an estrogen competitor with large potential to treat breast cancer patients and prolongs time to recurrence. Despite the estrogen receptor positivity and tamoxifen treatment, many women face recurrence of the disease. An important mechanism of resistance to endocrine treatments is upregulated growth factor signaling, and the subsequent effect on the estrogen receptor, rendering an active receptor that stimulates cell proliferation or reduced estrogen-receptor dependence.
This thesis concerns the investigation of biomarkers, as a complement to the existing markers, for determining optimal treatment for patients with primary invasive breast cancer. Randomized patient tumor materials were used in order to measure variations in gene copies, proteins, and protein phosphorylations and to further relate these variations to time-to-recurrence. Endocrine untreated groups within the patient tumor sets gave us the opportunity to study the prognostic potential of selected markers and to compare tamoxifen-treated patients with endocrine untreated, thus obtaining a treatment-predictive value of each marker or marker combination.
In endocrine-dependent cancer the 11q13 chromosomal region is frequently amplified, harboring the genes encoding the cell cycle stimulator cyclin D1 and the estrogen receptor phosphorylating kinase Pak1, respectively. Amplification of the genes was associated with reduced time-torecurrence, indicating a prognostic value, whereas PAK1 gene amplification predicted reduced response to tamoxifen treatment. Moreover, the protein expression of Pak1 tended to predict treatment response, which led to the investigation of this protein in a larger cohort. Together with one of its targets, the estrogen receptor phosphorylation at serine 305, Pak1 predicted reduced response to tamoxifen treatment when detected in the nucleus of tumor cells, suggesting activation of this pathway as a mechanism for tamoxifen-treatment resistance. The estrogen receptor is phosphorylated by several growth factor stimulated kinases. The role of serine-167 phosphorylation has been debated, with inconsistent results. To study the biomarker value of this site the upstream activity of Akt, mTOR, and the S6 kinases were analyzed individually and in combinations. As a prognostic factor, serine 167 indicated an improved breast cancer survival, and as a treatment predictive factor we could not detect a significant value of serine 167 as a single marker. However, in combination with serine 305, and Akt/mTOR-pathway activation, the response to tamoxifen treatment was reduced. The mTOR effector protein S6K1 was found to be associated with HER2 positivity and a worse prognosis. In the group of patients with S6K1 accumulation in the tumor cell nuclei, treatment did not prolong time-to-recurrence, similarly as observed with expression of active S6 kinases. In vitro, a simultaneous knockdown of the S6 kinases in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells resulted in G1 arrest, and tamoxifen-induced G1 arrest was in part S6 kinase dependent.
The results presented herein suggest biomarkers that would improve treatment decisions in the clinic, specifically for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer and tamoxifen treatment but in a broader perspective, also for other endocrine treatments and targeted treatments.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2013. , 71 p.
2013-12-18, Nils-Holgersalen, ing. 71, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 09:00 (English)
Stål, Olle, ProfessorBivik, Cecilia, Dr.