Estrogen promotes ER-negative tumor growth and angiogenesis through mobilization of bone marrow-derived monocytes

Cancer Res. 2012 Jun 1;72(11):2705-13. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-3287. Epub 2012 Mar 30.


Estrogen has a central role in the genesis and progression of breast cancers whether they are positive or negative for the estrogen receptor (ER). While therapies that disrupt estrogen biosynthesis or ER activity can treat these diseases in postmenopausal women, in younger women where ovarian function remains intact, these anti-estrogen therapies are not as effective. Moreover, emerging clinical evidence suggests that estrogen may promote other cancers. Thus, circulating estrogens may participate in cancer pathogenesis in ways that are not yet understood. In this study, we show that estrogen can promote the outgrowth of murine xenograft tumors established from patient-derived ER-negative breast cancer cells by influencing the mobilization and recruitment of a proangiogenic population of bone marrow-derived myeloid cells. ERα expression was necessary and sufficient in the bone marrow-derived cells themselves to promote tumor formation in response to estrogen. Our findings reveal a novel way in which estrogen promotes tumor formation, with implications for the development and application of anti-estrogen therapies to treat cancer in premenopausal women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / drug effects*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / physiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Monocytes / drug effects*
  • Monocytes / physiology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology*


  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Estradiol