Estrogen receptor signaling pathways in human non-small cell lung cancer

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Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer mortality in male and female patients in the US. The etiology of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is not fully defined, but new data suggest that estrogens and growth factors promote tumor progression. In this work, we confirm that estrogen receptors (ER), both ERα and ERβ, occur in significant proportions of archival NSCLC specimens from the clinic, with receptor expression in tumor cell nuclei and in extranuclear sites. Further, ERα in tumor nuclei was present in activated forms as assessed by detection of ER phosphorylation at serines-118 and -167, residues commonly modulated by growth factor receptor as well as steroid signaling. In experiments using small interfering RNA (siRNA) constructs, we find that suppressing expression of either ERα or ERβ elicits a significant reduction in NSCLC cell proliferation in vitro. Estrogen signaling in NSCLC cells may also include steroid receptor coactivators (SRC), as SRC-3 and MNAR/PELP1 are both expressed in several lung cell lines, and both EGF and estradiol elicit serine phosphorylation of SRC-3 in vitro. EGFR and ER also cooperate in promoting early activation of p42/p44 MAP kinase in NSCLC cells. To assess new strategies to block NSCLC growth, we used Faslodex alone and with erlotinib, an EGFR kinase inhibitor. The drug tandem elicited enhanced blockade of the growth of NSCLC xenografts in vivo, and antitumor activity exceeded that of either agent given alone. The potential for use of antiestrogens alone and with growth factor receptor antagonists is now being pursued further in clinical trials.

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