In previous studies using a xenograft model with tumors of human estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer cells transfected with aromatase (MCF-7ca), we explored the antitumor efficacy of treatment combining the nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor letrozole with tamoxifen. However, treatment with this combination resulted in tumor suppression similar to tamoxifen alone but was less effective than letrozole alone. Clinical findings with the nonsteroidal inhibitor anastrozole in combination with tamoxifen (ATAC trial) were consistent with our results. Although letrozole was the most effective single agent in the model, tumors ultimately began to grow during continued treatment. To investigate the mechanisms by which tumors adapted to growth during letrozole treatment, we determined the expression of proteins in tumors during letrozole treatment compared with the tumors of control mice. We found that tumors initially up-regulated the ER, but subsequently receptor levels decreased in tumors unresponsive to letrozole. Adapter proteins (p-Shc and Grb-2) as well as all of the signaling proteins in the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade (p-Raf, p-MEK1/2, and p-MAPK) but not Akt were increased in tumors no longer responsive to letrozole. The results suggest that tumor cells adapt to estrogen deprivation during letrozole treatment by activation of alternate signaling pathways. When letrozole was combined with the pure antiestrogen fulvestrant, which down-regulates ER, the combination was extremely effective. Tumors regressed by 45% and were maintained without growth for the duration of the experiment (29 weeks). Thus, achieving more complete estrogen blockade may delay development of hormone-independent signaling pathways regulating proliferation.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Clinical Cancer Research|
|Issue number||2 II|
|State||Published - Jan 15 2005|