Breast cancer research : BCR

HER4 expression in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer is associated with decreased sensitivity to tamoxifen treatment and reduced overall survival of postmenopausal women.

PMID 30458882


The sensitivity of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers to tamoxifen treatment varies considerably, and the molecular mechanisms affecting the response rates are manifold. The human epidermal growth factor receptor-related receptor HER2 is known to trigger intracellular signaling cascades that modulate the activity of coregulators of the estrogen receptor which, in turn, reduces the cell sensitivity to tamoxifen treatment. However, the impact of HER2-related receptor tyrosine kinases HER1, HER3, and, in particular, HER4 on endocrine treatment is largely unknown. Here, we retrospectively evaluated the importance of HER4 expression on the outcome of tamoxifen- and aromatase inhibitor-treated estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer patients (n = 258). In addition, we experimentally analyzed the efficiency of tamoxifen treatment as a function of HER4 co-expression in vitro. We found a significantly improved survival in tamoxifen-treated postmenopausal breast cancer patients in the absence of HER4 compared with those with pronounced HER4 expression. In accordance with this finding, the sensitivity to tamoxifen treatment of estrogen and HER4 receptor-positive ZR-75-1 breast cancer cells can be significantly enhanced by HER4 knockdown. We suggest an HER4/estrogen receptor interaction that impedes tamoxifen binding to the estrogen receptor and reduces treatment efficiency. Whether the sensitivity to tamoxifen treatment can be enhanced by anti-HER4 targeting needs to be prospectively evaluated.