Proteomics on malignant pleural effusions reveals ERα loss in metastatic breast cancer associates with SGK1-NDRG1 deregulation.


Breast cancer (BCa) is a highly heterogeneous disease, with hormone receptor status being a key factor in patient prognostication and treatment decision-making. The majority of primary tumours are positive for estrogen receptor alpha (ERα), which plays a key role in tumorigenesis and disease progression, and represents the major target for treatment of BCa. However, around one third of patients with ERα-positive BCa relapse and progress into the metastatic stage, with 20% of metastatic cases characterised by loss of ERα expression after endocrine treatment, known as ERα-conversion. It remains unclear whether ERα-converted cancers are biologically similar to bona fide ERα-negative disease and which signalling cascades compensate for ERα loss and drive tumour progression. To better understand the biological changes that occur in metastatic BCa upon ERα loss, we performed (phospho)proteomics analysis of 47 malignant pleural effusions derived from 37 breast cancer patients, comparing ERα-positive, ERα-converted and ERα-negative cases. Our data revealed that the loss of ERα-dependency in this metastatic site leads to only a partial switch to an ERα-negative molecular phenotype, with preservation of a luminal-like proteomic landscape. Furthermore, we found evidence for decreased activity of several key kinases, including serum/glucocorticoid regulated kinase 1 (SGK1), in ERα-converted metastases. Loss of SGK1 substrate phosphorylation may compensate for the loss of ERα-dependency in advanced disease and exposes a potential therapeutic vulnerability that may be exploited in treating these patients.

More about this publication

Molecular oncology
  • Publication date 19-10-2023

This site uses cookies

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.