Millions of women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. While many women will completely recover from this cancer, others will not respond to treatment, and predicting which women will not respond to treatment is currently difficult. Breast cancer cells divide rapidly, and treatments that can restrict their growth are of great interest. In a June 24th study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Rong Li and colleagues at the University of Texas determined that activation of the estrogen receptor β (ERβ) limits tumor cell growth. Cancer cells with activated ERβ did not grow well in culture or in mouse models. Importantly, breast cancer patients that had activated ERβ in breast tissue had increased disease-free survival. This study suggests that ERβ activation may be useful in evaluating the prognosis of breast cancer patients and that treatment strategies that activate ERβ may be useful for cancer therapy.
A phosphotyrosine switch determines the antitumor activity of ERβ
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