Estrogen receptor beta in cancer: an attractive target for therapy

Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(19):2734-57. doi: 10.2174/138161212800626139.


While it is well documented that the mitogenic actions of estrogens are critical in the development and progression of human breast and some gynecologic cancers, only latest data demonstrate a crucial involvement of estrogen-signaling in the carcinogenesis of non-classical estrogen target tissues, as colon, prostate, lung, skin, and brain. Only recently it has also been found out that the biological effects of estrogens are mediated by two distinct estrogen receptors (ERs), ERα and ERβ, and that their relative levels in a given cell are important determinants of response to estradiol and selective estrogen receptor modulators. Indeed, although ERα and ERβ have similar structure, they produce different effects, and there is currently increasing evidence that, for some tumors, an imbalanced ERβ expression might play a pivotal role in tumor development and progression. However, the prognostic value, the potential significance in predicting response to endocrine therapy, and, eventually, the utility of ERβ as a therapeutic target need to be assessed in large-scale and prospective clinical studies. This review examines the experimental and clinical evidences for a role of ERβ in carcinogenesis of classical and nonclassical estrogen target tissues. If anomalies of ERβ expression could be demonstrated to represent a critical step in the development and progression of some types of cancers, its re-expression by genetic engineering, as well as the use of targeted ERβ therapies would constitute new important therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / drug effects*
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Estrogen Receptor beta