c-Myc overexpression and endocrine resistance in breast cancer.
ABSTRACT The oncoprotein c-Myc is frequently overexpressed in breast cancer and ectopic expression in breast cancer cell lines attenuates responses to antiestrogen treatment. Here, we review preliminary data aimed at further elucidating a potential role for c-Myc in clinical endocrine resistance in breast cancer. Immunohistochemical and semi-quantitative PCR revealed that c-Myc protein and c-myc mRNA were frequently overexpressed in both ER-positive and ER-negative breast carcinoma. Furthermore, both constitutive and inducible c-Myc overexpression in MCF-7 breast cancer cell lines markedly reduced their sensitivity to the growth inhibitory effects of the pure antiestrogen ICI 182,780. In order to identify potential downstream targets of c-Myc that mediate this effect, Affymetrix microarrays were employed to examine the patterns of gene expression shared by MCF-7 cells stimulated by estrogen, or by induction of c-Myc. Approximately 50% of estrogen target genes identified 6h after treatment were also regulated by c-Myc. One novel target, EMU4, was transcriptionally regulated by c-Myc. In addition, there was a strong correlation between c-myc and EMU4 mRNA expression in a battery of breast cancer cell lines. These data confirm that c-Myc overexpression is a common event in breast cancer, and that this is associated with resistance to antiestrogens in vitro. Furthermore, the development of an experimental paradigm for the discovery of c-Myc and estrogen target genes associated with endocrine resistance provides a framework for the discovery and validation of genes involved in estrogen signalling, and c-Myc-mediated-antiestrogen resistance.