Estrogen receptor beta in breast cancer--diagnostic and therapeutic implications

Steroids. 2009 Aug;74(8):635-41. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2009.02.005. Epub 2009 Mar 4.


More than 10 years have passed since the discovery of the second estrogen receptor, estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta). It is now evident that ERalpha is not the only ER in breast cancer cells; in fact, ERbeta is expressed in the majority of breast cancers although at lower levels than in the normal breast. In addition, ERbeta is expressed in breast cancer infiltrating lymphocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells, all known to influence tumor growth. By overexpressing or knocking-out ERbeta in breast cancer cell lines, several researchers have investigated its function with respect to proliferation and tumor growth. It appears that ERbeta is anti-proliferative, in many ways antagonising the function of ERalpha. Furthermore, phytoestrogens have a binding-preference for ERbeta and several epidemiological studies indicate a breast cancer preventing effect of this class of compounds. Tamoxifen is one of the standard, adjuvant treatments for ERalpha positive breast cancer, classically thought to mediate its effect through ERalpha. However, in several recent studies, ERbeta has been described as a potential marker for tamoxifen response. In summary, experimental, epidemiological as well as diagnostic studies point towards ERbeta as an important factor in breast cancer, opening up the possibility for novel ERbeta-selective therapies in the treatment of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / agonists
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology
  • Phytoestrogens / therapeutic use


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Phytoestrogens