Growth Hormone Potentiates 17β-Estradiol-Dependent Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation Independently of IGF-I Receptor Signaling

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Estrogen action in mammary gland development and breast cancer progression is tightly linked to the GH/IGF-I axis. Although many of the effects of GH on mammary gland growth and development require IGF-I, the extent to which GH action in breast cancer depends on IGF-I is not known. We examined GH action in a panel of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cell lines and found that T47D cells express significant levels of GH receptor and that GH significantly enhances 17β-estradiol (E2)-stimulated proliferation in these cells. GH action in the T47D cells was independent of changes in IGF-I and IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR) expression and IGF-IR signaling, suggesting that GH can exert direct effects on breast cancer cells. Although E2-dependent proliferation required IGF-IR signaling, the combination of GH+E2 overcame inhibition of IGF-IR activity to restore proliferation. In contrast, GH required both Janus kinase 2 and epidermal growth factor receptor signaling for subsequent ERK activation and potentiation of E2-dependent proliferation. Downstream of these pathways, we identified a number of immediate early-response genes associated with proliferation that are rapidly and robustly up-regulated by GH. These findings demonstrate that GH can have important effects in breast cancer cells that are distinct from IGF-IR activity, suggesting that novel drugs or improved combination therapies targeting estrogen receptor and the GH/IGF axis may be beneficial for breast cancer patients.

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