Estrogen receptor beta expression in invasive breast cancer

Hum Pathol. 2001 Jan;32(1):113-8. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2001.21506.


The aim of this work was to determine the extent of estrogen receptor beta (ER-beta) expression in invasive breast cancer (BrCA) and whether ER-beta expression is correlated with response to adjuvant hormonal therapy with tamoxifen (AHTT). Immunohistochemical staining (IHC) for estrogen receptor alpha (ER-alpha) and ER-beta was performed on sections of formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissue from 47 unselected invasive breast carcinomas (BrCA). IHC for ER-beta was also performed on sections of BrCA from 118 women who were treated with mastectomy and AHTT. Survival analysis was performed using the Kaplan-Meier method and the log-rank test. Of the 47 unselected BrCA, 17 (36%) were negative for ER-alpha and of these, 8 (47% of ER-alpha negative cases and 17% of all 47 patients) were ER-beta positive. Five of the 8 ER-alpha negative and ER-beta positive cases were positive for ER biochemically. There was no correlation between ER-beta positivity and overall survival in the unselected group. By contrast, in the group of women treated with AHTT, expression of ER-beta in more than 10% of cancer cells was associated with better survival (P = .0077), even in women with node-negative BrCA (P = .0069). In conclusion, our results show that a significant number of women with BrCA are positive for ER-beta only, and may be determined to be ER-negative when currently available IHC is used. ER-beta status is a significant predictor of response to AHTT in women with BrCA. Larger studies with multivariate analysis are needed to confirm these findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Receptors, Estrogen / biosynthesis*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Receptors, Estrogen