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Osipo C , Meeke K , Cheng D , Weichel A , Bertucci A , Liu H , Jordan VC
Role for HER2/neu and HER3 in fulvestrant-resistant breast cancer
International Journal of Oncology. 2007 Feb;30(2) :509-520
PMID: ISI:000243621300025   
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Tamoxifen resistance is common for estrogen receptor alpha (ER alpha) positive breast cancer. Second-line therapies include aromatase inhibitors or fulvestrant. We have shown previously that fulvestrant reversed 17 beta-estradiol-induced tumor regression of tamoxifen-stimulated MCF-7 xenografts (MCF-7TAMLT) treated for > 5 years with tamoxifen in athymic mice and paradoxically stimulated growth. We investigated mechanisms responsible for growth by fulvestrant in the presence of physiologic estradiol and therapeutic strategies in vivo. The results demonstrated that only estradiol increased expression of the estrogen-responsive genes, c-myc, igf-1, cathepsin D, and pS2 mRNAs, in MCF-7E2 and MCF-7TAMLT tumors. Tamoxifen or fulvestrant decreased the estradiol-induced increase of these mRNAs in both tumor models. However, tyrosine-phosphorylated HER2/neu, HER3, phospho-extracellular-regulated kinase-1/2 (ERK-1/2), and phospho-glycogen synthetase kinase 3 alpha (GSK3 alpha) and beta proteins were increased in MCF-7TAMLT tumors treated with fulvestrant compared to estradiol, control, or tamoxifen. Phospho-HER2/neu interacted with HER3 protein in MCF-7TAMLT tumors. In order to determine whether the functional interaction of HER2/neu with HER3 is critical for growth of fulvestrant-stimulated MCF-7TAMLT tumors, pertuzumab (an antibody that blocks HER2/neu-HER3 interaction) was used in an in vivo xenograft growth assay. Only growth of fulvestrant-treated MCF-7TAMLT xenografts was decreased significantly by 37.2% in response to pertuzumab (P=0.004). Pertuzumab specifically decreased the interaction of HER2/neu protein with HER3 in fulvestrant-stimulated MCF-7TAMLT tumors. These results suggested growth of MCF-7TAMLT tumors by tamoxifen or fulvestrant is potentially independent of ER alpha transcriptional activity as evidenced by lack of induction of four estrogen-responsive genes. The results suggested that growth of MCF-7TAMLT tumors treated with fulvestrant in the presence of physiologic estradiol is in part mediated through enhanced signaling from the HER2/neu-HER3 pathway as pertuzumab partially inhibited growth and the interaction of HER2/neu with HER3 in vivo.