Loss of TGFβ receptor type 2 expression impairs estrogen response and confers tamoxifen resistance

Susann Busch, Andrew H. Sims, Olle Stål, Mårten Fernö, Göran Landberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One third of the patients with estrogen receptor α (ERα)-positive breast cancer who are treated with the antiestrogen tamoxifen will either not respond to initial therapy or will develop drug resistance. Endocrine response involves crosstalk between ERα and TGFβ signaling, such that tamoxifen nonresponsiveness or resistance in breast cancer might involve aberrant TGFβ signaling. In this study, we analyzed TGFβ receptor type 2 (TGFBR2) expression and correlated it with ERα status and phosphorylation in a cohort of 564 patients who had been randomized to tamoxifen or no-adjuvant treatment for invasive breast carcinoma. We also evaluated an additional four independent genetic datasets in invasive breast cancer. In all the cohorts we analyzed, we documented an association of low TGFBR2 protein and mRNA expression with tamoxifen resistance. Functional investigations confirmed that cell cycle or apoptosis responses to estrogen or tamoxifen in ERα-positive breast cancer cells were impaired by TGFBR2 silencing, as was ERα phosphorylation, tamoxifen-induced transcriptional activation of TGFβ, and upregulation of the multidrug resistance protein ABCG2. Acquisition of low TGFBR2 expression as a contributing factor to endocrine resistance was validated prospectively in a tamoxifen-resistant cell line generated by long-term drug treatment. Collectively, our results established a central contribution of TGFβ signaling in endocrine resistance in breast cancer and offered evidence that TGFBR2 can serve as an independent biomarker to predict treatment outcomes in ERα-positive forms of this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1469
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Research
Issue number7
Early online date31 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015

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