Estrogen receptor-β activation in combination with letrozole blocks the growth of breast cancer tumors resistant to letrozole therapy

Hareesh B. Nair, Nameer B. Kirma, Manonmani Ganapathy, Ratna K. Vadlamudi, Rajeshwar Rao Tekmal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Treatment with anti-estrogens or aromatase inhibitors (AI) is the main therapeutic strategy used against estrogen receptor ERα-positive breast cancer. Resistance to these therapies presents a major challenge in the management of breast cancer. Little is known about ERβ in breast carcinogenesis. Our aim in this study is to examine potential novel strategies utilizing ERβ activity to overcome AI resistance. We provide evidence that ERβ agonist can reduce the growth of AI-resistant breast cancer cells. Our data further confirm that therapeutic activation of ERβ by DPN, an ERβ agonist, blocks letrozole-resistant tumor growth in a xenograft model. Interestingly, DPN exerted tumor growth inhibition only in the presence of the AI letrozole, suggesting that combination therapy including ERβ activators and AI may be used in the clinical setting treating AI resistant breast cancer. An increase in ERβ levels, with diminished ERα/ERβ ratio, was observed in the tumors from mice treated with DPN/letrozole combination compared to single agents and control. Decreased Cyclin D1 and increased CyclinD1/CDK inhibitors p21 and p27 levels in DPN/letrozole treated tumors were observed, suggesting that the combination treatment may inhibit tumor growth by blocking G1/S phase cell cycle progression. Our data show a decrease in MAPK phosphorylation levels without affecting total levels. In addition to providing evidence suggesting the potential use of ERβ agonists in combination with letrozole in treating AI resistant breast cancer and prolonging sensitivity to AI, we also provide mechanistic evidence supporting the role of ERβ in altering the expression profile associated with resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-796
Number of pages5
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Aromatase inhibitors
  • Breast cancer
  • Combination therapy
  • Drug resistance
  • Estrogen receptor beta agonists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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