We have examined the relative levels of oestrogen receptor beta (ERbeta) mRNA in 94 breast cancer specimens using a semi-quantitative RT-PCR procedure. We correlated its expression with ERalpha and various clinical, pathological and biochemical features of the disease. The level of ERbeta mRNA expression in these samples was found to be much lower than ERalpha. Although ERalpha mRNA species were found to be most frequently associated with histological grade I and II tumours, displaying tubular differentiation, low grades of nuclear pleomorphism and low mitotic activity, such features were not characteristic of ERbeta positive samples. Indeed, application of the Spearman rank correlation test revealed that there was an inverse association between ERbeta normalised levels and ERalpha protein HScore. Also ERbeta mRNA positive cancers were more frequently EGFR protein positive than their negative counterparts (p = 0.016), a feature normally associated with endocrine-insensitive disease. Our data suggest that although ERbeta levels are most likely lower than ERalpha, they may influence the biological behaviour of breast cancers containing low levels of ERalpha.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.