Systemic stromal effects of estrogen promote the growth of estrogen receptor-negative cancers

Cancer Res. 2007 Mar 1;67(5):2062-71. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-06-3895.


Numerous hormonal factors contribute to the lifetime risk of breast cancer development. These include inherited genetic mutations, age of menarche, age of menopause, and parity. Inexplicably, there is evidence indicating that ovariectomy prevents the formation of both estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and ER-negative breast cancers, suggesting that ER-negative breast cancers are dependent on ovarian hormones for their formation. To examine the mechanism(s) by which this may be occurring, we investigated the hypothesis that steroid hormones promote the outgrowth of ER-negative cancers by influencing host cell types distinct from the mammary epithelial cells. We used a novel xenograft mouse model of parturition-induced breast carcinoma formation, in which the tumors that arise following pregnancy lack the expression of nuclear hormone receptors, thereby recapitulating many clinical cases of this disease. Despite lacking ER expression, the tumors arising following pregnancy in this model require circulating estrogens for their formation. Moreover, increasing the levels of circulating estrogens sufficed to promote the formation and progression of ER-negative cancers, which was accompanied by a systemic increase in host angiogenesis and was attendant with the recruitment of bone marrow-derived stromal cells. Furthermore, bone marrow cells from estrogen-treated mice were sufficient to promote tumor growth. These results reveal a novel mechanism by which estrogens promote the growth of ER-negative cancers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology
  • Parturition / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics*
  • Stromal Cells* / drug effects


  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Estrogen