Introduction Few markers are available that can predict response to tamoxifen treatment in estrogen receptor (ER)positive breast cancers. Identification of such markers would be clinically useful. We attempted to identify molecular markers associated with tamoxifen failure in breast cancer.
Methods Eighteen initially ER-positive patients treated with tamoxifen requiring salvage surgery (tamoxifen failure [TF] patients) were compared with 17 patients who were disease free 5 years after surgery plus tamoxifen adjuvant therapy (control patients). cDNA microarray, real-time quantitative PCR, and immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays were used to generate and confirm a gene signature associated with tamoxifen failure. An independent series of 33 breast tumor samples from patients who relapsed (n = 14) or did not relapse (n = 19) under tamoxifen treatment from a different geographic location was subsequently used to explore the gene expression signature identified.
Results Using a screening set of 18 tumor samples (from eight control patients and 10 TF patients), a 47-gene signature discriminating between TF and control samples was identified using cDNA arrays. In addition to ESR1/ER alpha, the top-ranked genes selected by statistical cross-analyses were MET, FOS, SNCG, IGFBP4, and BCL2, which were subsequently validated in a larger set of tumor samples (from 17 control patients and 18 TF patients). Confirmation at the protein level by tissue microarray immunohistochemistry was observed for ER alpha, gamma-synuclein, and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 4 proteins in the 35 original samples. In an independent series of breast tumor samples (19 nonrelapsing and 14 relapsing), reduced expression of ESR1/ER alpha, IGFBP4, SNCG, BCL2, and FOS was observed in the relapsing group and was associated with a shorter overall survival. Low mRNA expression levels of ESR1/ER alpha, BCL2, and FOS were also associated with a shorter relapse-free survival (RFS). Using a Cox multivariate regression analysis, we identified BCL2 and FOS as independent prognostic markers associated with RFS. Finally, the BCL2/FOS signature was demonstrated to have more accurate prognostic value for RFS than ESR1/ER alpha alone (likelihood ratio test).
Conclusions We identified molecular markers including a BCL2/FOS signature associated with tamoxifen failure; these markers may have clinical potential in the management of ER-positive breast cancer.
- ESTROGEN-REGULATED GENES
- PROTEIN SYNUCLEIN-GAMMA
- EXPRESSION PATTERNS
- BINDING PROTEIN-4
- HISTOLOGIC GRADE
- BCL-2 EXPRESSION
- TARGET GENES