Background: We have found that the platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR)/Abl signaling pathway is up-regulated as a determinant of the acquisition of resistance to estrogen deprivation in vitro. We aimed to determine its clinical relevance in aromatase inhibitor (AI)-resistant breast cancer.
Patients and methods: We identified a cohort of 45 patients with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer who had been treated with an AI, subsequently relapsed and had biopsy material available from both the presentation and post-AI recurrent lesion. PDGFRα, PDGFRβ and Abl expression was assessed in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections.
Results: Tumor protein expression of PDGFRα (1.39-fold, P=0.0065), PDGFRβ (4.32-fold, P=0.006) and Abl (1.8-fold, P=0.001) was increased at the point of relapse. Tumor and stromal expression of PDGFRα as well as PDGFRβ was significantly correlated in pre-treatment and relapse samples. High post-treatment tumor and stromal PDGFRβ levels were associated with a short time to treatment failure (TTF). Expression of PDGFRα in relapsing tumor specimens was correlated with Abl expression and Ki67 levels. Furthermore, changes in Abl correlated significantly with changes in ER expression.
Conclusions: These clinical data support a role for enhanced PDGF/Abl signaling in AI-resistant disease and provide a rationale for targeting the pathway in endocrine-resistant breast cancer.