DNA methylation of estrogen regulated enhancers defines endocrine sensitivity in breast cancer
ABSTRACT: Expression of estrogen receptor (ESR1) determines whether a breast cancer patient receives endocrine therapy as part of their adjuvant care, but does not guarantee patient response. However, the molecular factors that define endocrine response in ESR1-positive breast cancer patients remain poorly understood. Here, we characterize the DNA methylome of endocrine sensitivity and demonstrate the potential impact of differential DNA methylation on endocrine response in breast cancer. We show that DNA hypermethylation occurs predominantly at estrogen-responsive enhancers and is associated with reduced ESR1 binding and decreased gene expression of key regulators of ESR1-activity; thus providing a novel mechanism by which endocrine response is abated in ESR1-positive breast cancers. Conversely, we delineate that ESR1-responsive enhancer hypomethylation is critical in transition from normal mammary epithelial cells to endocrine responsive ESR1-positive cancer. Cumulatively these novel insights highlight the potential of ESR1-responsive enhancer methylation to both predict ESR1-positive disease and stratify ESR1-positive breast cancer patients as responders to endocrine therapy. Methylation profiling with Illumina's HumanMethylation450K array was performed on ESR1-positive hormone sensitive MCF7 cells, and three different well characterised endocrine resistant MCF7-derived cell lines; tamoxifen-resistant (TAMR), fulvestrant-resistant (FASR) and estrogen deprivation resistant (MCF7X) cells. For each cell line two biological replicates were profiled bringing the number of samples to eight.
Project description:Expression of oestrogen receptor (ESR1) determines whether a breast cancer patient receives endocrine therapy, but does not guarantee patient response. The molecular factors that define endocrine response in ESR1-positive breast cancer patients remain poorly understood. Here we characterize the DNA methylome of endocrine sensitivity and demonstrate the potential impact of differential DNA methylation on endocrine response in breast cancer. We show that DNA hypermethylation occurs predominantly at oestrogen-responsive enhancers and is associated with reduced ESR1 binding and decreased gene expression of key regulators of ESR1 activity, thus providing a novel mechanism by which endocrine response is abated in ESR1-positive breast cancers. Conversely, we delineate that ESR1-responsive enhancer hypomethylation is critical in transition from normal mammary epithelial cells to endocrine-responsive ESR1-positive cancer. Cumulatively, these novel insights highlight the potential of ESR1-responsive enhancer methylation to both predict ESR1-positive disease and stratify ESR1-positive breast cancer patients as responders to endocrine therapy.
Project description:Somatic mutations of the estrogen receptor 1 gene (ESR1) is an emerging mechanism of acquired resistance to endocrine therapy in hormonal breast cancers. Hotspot point mutations in the ligand- binding domain of estrogen receptor ? (ER) and genomic rearrangements producing ESR1 fusion genes are the two major types of mutations that are associated with endocrine resistance. The crosstalk between X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1), a key transcription factor of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and ER signalling creates a positive feedback loop that results in increased expression of XBP1 in ER-positive breast cancer. Here we report that XBP1 co-operated with point mutants (Y537S, D538G) and fusion mutants (ESR1-YAP1, ESR1-DAB2) of ESR1 to increase their transcriptional activity. XBP1 was required for optimal expression of estrogen-regulated genes, and up to 40% of XBP1-dependent genes were estrogen-responsive genes. Knockdown of XBP1 in genome-edited MCF7 cells expressing Y537S mutant reduced their growth, re-sensitized them to anti-estrogens and attenuated the constitutive and estrogen-stimulated expression of estrogen-regulated genes. Our study provides a rationale for overcoming endocrine resistance in breast cancers expressing ESR1 mutation by combining the XBP1 targeting agents with anti-estrogen agents.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Endocrine therapy is the most common treatment for estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, but its effectiveness is limited by high rates of primary and acquired resistance. There are likely many genetic causes, and recent studies suggest the important role of ESR1 mutations and fusions in endocrine resistance. Previously, we reported a recurrent ESR1 fusion called ESR1-CCDC170 in 6-8% of the luminal B breast cancers that has a worse clinical outcome after endocrine therapy. Despite being the most frequent ESR1 fusion, its functional role in endocrine resistance has not been studied in vivo, and the engaged mechanism and therapeutic relevance remain uncharacterized. METHODS:The endocrine sensitivities of HCC1428 or T47D breast cancer cells following genetic perturbations of ESR1-CCDC170 were assessed using clonogenic assays and/or xenograft mouse models. The underlying mechanisms were investigated by reverse phase protein array, western blotting, immunoprecipitation, and bimolecular fluorescence complementation assays. The sensitivity of ESR1-CCDC170 expressing breast cancer cells to concomitant treatments of tamoxifen and HER/SRC inhibitors was assessed by clonogenic assays. RESULTS:Our results suggested that different ESR1-CCDC170 fusions endow different levels of reduced endocrine sensitivity in vivo, resulting in significant survival disadvantages. Further investigation revealed a novel mechanism that ESR1-CCDC170 binds to HER2/HER3/SRC and activates SRC/PI3K/AKT signaling. Silencing of ESR1-CCDC170 in the fusion-positive cell line, HCC1428, downregulates HER2/HER3, represses pSRC/pAKT, and improves endocrine sensitivity. More important, breast cancer cells expressing ectopic or endogenous ESR1-CCDC170 are highly sensitive to treatment regimens combining endocrine agents with the HER2 inhibitor lapatinib and/or the SRC inhibitor dasatinib. CONCLUSION:ESR1-CCDC170 may endow breast cancer cell survival under endocrine therapy via maintaining/activating HER2/HER3/SRC/AKT signaling which implies a potential therapeutic strategy for managing these fusion positive tumors.
Project description:RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) detects estrogen receptor alpha gene (ESR1) fusion transcripts in estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, but their role in disease pathogenesis remains unclear. We examined multiple ESR1 fusions and found that two, both identified in advanced endocrine treatment-resistant disease, encoded stable and functional fusion proteins. In both examples, ESR1-e6>YAP1 and ESR1-e6>PCDH11X, ESR1 exons 1-6 were fused in frame to C-terminal sequences from the partner gene. Functional properties include estrogen-independent growth, constitutive expression of ER target genes, and anti-estrogen resistance. Both fusions activate a metastasis-associated transcriptional program, induce cellular motility, and promote the development of lung metastasis. ESR1-e6>YAP1- and ESR1-e6>PCDH11X-induced growth remained sensitive to a CDK4/6 inhibitor, and a patient-derived xenograft (PDX) naturally expressing the ESR1-e6>YAP1 fusion was also responsive. Transcriptionally active ESR1 fusions therefore trigger both endocrine therapy resistance and metastatic progression, explaining the association with fatal disease progression, although CDK4/6 inhibitor treatment is predicted to be effective.
Project description:Breast cancer prognosis and response to endocrine therapy strongly depends on the expression of the estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR, respectively). Although much is known about ER? gene (ESR1) regulation after hormonal stimulation, how it is regulated in hormone-free condition is not fully understood. We used ER-/PR-positive breast cancer cells to investigate the role of PR in ESR1 regulation in the absence of hormones. We show that PR binds to the low-methylated ESR1 promoter and maintains both gene expression and DNA methylation of the ESR1 locus in hormone-deprived breast cancer cells. Depletion of PR reduces ESR1 expression, with a concomitant increase in gene promoter methylation. The high amount of methylation in the ESR1 promoter of PR-depleted cells persists after the stable re-expression of PR and inhibits PR binding to this genomic region. As a consequence, the rescue of PR expression in PR-depleted cells is insufficient to restore ESR1 expression. Consistently, DNA methylation impedes PR binding to consensus progesterone responsive elements. These findings contribute to understanding the complex crosstalk between PR and ER and suggest that the analysis of ESR1 promoter methylation in breast cancer cells can help to design more appropriate targeted therapies for breast cancer patients.
Project description:Endocrine therapy, using tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor, remains first-line therapy for the management of estrogen receptor (ESR1)-positive breast cancer. However, ESR1 mutations or other ligand-independent ESR1 activation mechanisms limit the duration of response. The clinical efficacy of fulvestrant, a selective estrogen receptor downregulator (SERD) that competitively inhibits agonist binding to ESR1 and triggers receptor downregulation, has confirmed that ESR1 frequently remains engaged in endocrine therapy-resistant cancers. We evaluated the activity of a new class of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM)/SERD hybrids (SSH) that downregulate ESR1 in relevant models of endocrine-resistant breast cancer. Building on the observation that concurrent inhibition of ESR1 and the cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) significantly increased progression-free survival in advanced patients, we explored the activity of different SERD- or SSH-CDK4/6 inhibitor combinations in models of endocrine therapy-resistant ESR1(+) breast cancer.SERDs, SSHs, and the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib were evaluated as single agents or in combination in established cellular and animal models of endocrine therapy-resistant ESR1(+) breast cancer.The combination of palbociclib with a SERD or an SSH was shown to effectively inhibit the growth of MCF7 cell or ESR1-mutant patient-derived tumor xenografts. In tamoxifen-resistant MCF7 xenografts, the palbociclib/SERD or SSH combination resulted in an increased duration of response as compared with either drug alone.A SERD- or SSH-palbociclib combination has therapeutic potential in breast tumors resistant to endocrine therapies or those expressing ESR1 mutations. See related commentary by DeMichele and Chodosh, p. 4999.
Project description:Estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) metastatic breast cancer is often intractable due to endocrine therapy resistance. Although ESR1 promoter switching events have been associated with endocrine-therapy resistance, recurrent ESR1 fusion proteins have yet to be identified in advanced breast cancer.To identify genomic structural rearrangements (REs) including gene fusions in acquired resistance, we undertook a multimodal sequencing effort in three breast cancer patient cohorts: (i) mate-pair and/or RNAseq in 6 patient-matched primary-metastatic tumors and 51 metastases, (ii) high coverage (>500×) comprehensive genomic profiling of 287-395 cancer-related genes across 9542 solid tumors (5216 from metastatic disease), and (iii) ultra-high coverage (>5000×) genomic profiling of 62 cancer-related genes in 254 ctDNA samples. In addition to traditional gene fusion detection methods (i.e. discordant reads, split reads), ESR1 REs were detected from targeted sequencing data by applying a novel algorithm (copyshift) that identifies major copy number shifts at rearrangement hotspots.We identify 88 ESR1 REs across 83 unique patients with direct confirmation of 9 ESR1 fusion proteins (including 2 via immunoblot). ESR1 REs are highly enriched in ER-positive, metastatic disease and co-occur with known ESR1 missense alterations, suggestive of polyclonal resistance. Importantly, all fusions result from a breakpoint in or near ESR1 intron 6 and therefore lack an intact ligand binding domain (LBD). In vitro characterization of three fusions reveals ligand-independence and hyperactivity dependent upon the 3' partner gene. Our lower-bound estimate of ESR1 fusions is at least 1% of metastatic solid breast cancers, the prevalence in ctDNA is at least 10× enriched. We postulate this enrichment may represent secondary resistance to more aggressive endocrine therapies applied to patients with ESR1 LBD missense alterations.Collectively, these data indicate that N-terminal ESR1 fusions involving exons 6-7 are a recurrent driver of endocrine therapy resistance and are impervious to ER-targeted therapies.
Project description:Mutations in the hotspot ligand-binding domain of the estrogen receptor (ER) gene ESR1 have recently been recognized as mechanisms of endocrine resistance in endocrine receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Accumulating data suggest these mutations develop under the selective pressure of endocrine treatments, and are infrequent in untreated ER-positive breast cancers. In vitro studies show that these mutations confer ligand-independent activity, resistance to estrogen deprivation, and relative resistance to tamoxifen and fulvestrant. Post-hoc retrospective and prospective analyses of ESR1 mutations in patients with MBC have consistently found that these mutations are markers of poor prognosis and predict resistance to aromatase inhibitors (AIs). These results warrant further investigation and prospective validation in dedicated studies. Moreover, studies are ongoing to clarify the activity of novel drugs in the context of metastatic endocrine resistant luminal breast cancer harboring ESR1 mutations. In this review, we summarize the pre-clinical and clinical findings defining the characteristics of ESR1 mutant breast cancer, and highlight the potential clinical developments in this field.
Project description:Estrogen receptor-? (ER-?), encoded by ESR1, is detected by immunohistochemistry in approximately 70% of invasive breast cancers and serves as a strong predictive biomarker. ESR1-activating mutations in the ligand-binding domain have been reported in up to 35-40% of ER-positive metastatic breast cancers and are associated with endocrine therapy resistance and disease progression. At present, it is unclear whether ESR1 mutations alter the immunohistochemical detection of ER performed in routine clinical practice. In this study, ESR1 mutations in breast cancer were identified utilizing Memorial Sloan Kettering-Integrated Mutation Profiling of Actionable Cancer Targets (MSK-IMPACT), a Food and Drug Administration-approved hybridization capture-based next-generation sequencing assay. Five hundred and eighty-six breast cancers from patients with locally advanced or metastatic disease were analyzed using MSK-IMPACT in the study period. ESR1 somatic alterations were identified in 67 breast cancer samples from 66 patients. Immunohistochemical analysis of ER, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 was performed on the primary and treated breast cancers from these patients at the time of diagnosis. Twenty unique ESR1 mutations were identified involving the ligand-binding domain, all in breast cancer samples from patients previously treated with endocrine therapy. The most frequent mutations were D538G (n?=?22), Y537S (n?=?7), and E380Q (n?=?7). All breast cancer samples with an ESR1 mutation were ER-positive by immunohistochemistry. Review of the ER immunohistochemistry in the paired untreated primary tumor and treated tumor from 34 patients showed no detectable change in the ER-positive immunohistochemical status (median percentage of invasive tumor cells with nuclear staining: untreated primary tumor 90%, treated tumor 95%). We conclude that ESR1 mutations do not appreciably diminish ER-positive staining by immunohistochemistry. In addition to standard biomarker testing by immunohistochemistry, the assessment of ESR1 mutations by molecular testing can help guide the clinical management of patients with ER-positive breast cancer in the setting of endocrine resistance and progression of disease.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Estrogen Receptor 1 (ESR1) aberrations may be associated with expression of estrogen receptor (ER) or progesterone receptor (PgR), human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) or Ki-67 labeling index and prognosis. PATIENTS AND METHODS:ESR1 was assessed in 1129 (81%) of 1396 postmenopausal Danish women with early breast cancer randomly assigned to receive 5 years of letrozole, tamoxifen or a sequence of these agents in the Breast International Group 1-98 trial and who had ER ? 1% after central review. RESULTS:By FISH, 13.6% of patients had an ESR1-to-Centromere-6 (CEN-6) ratio ? 2 (amplified), and 4.2% had ESR1-to-CEN-6 ratio <0.8 (deleted). Deletion of ESR1 was associated with significantly lower levels of ER (P < 0.0001) and PgR (P = 0.02) and more frequent HER2 amplification. ESR1 deletion or amplification was associated with higher-Ki-67 than ESR1-normal tumors. Overall, there was no evidence of heterogeneity of disease-free survival (DFS) or in treatment effect according to ESR1 status. However, significant differences in DFS were observed for subsets based on a combination of ESR1 and HER2 status (P = 0.02). CONCLUSIONS:ESR1 aberrations were associated with HER2 status, Ki-67 labeling index and ER and PgR levels. When combined with HER2, ESR1 may be prognostic but should not be used for endocrine treatment selection in postmenopausal women with endocrine-responsive early breast cancer.