The RUNX family in breast cancer: relationships with estrogen signaling

Oncogene. 2013 Apr 25;32(17):2121-30. doi: 10.1038/onc.2012.328. Epub 2012 Oct 8.


The three RUNX family members are lineage specific master regulators, which also have important, context-dependent roles in carcinogenesis as either tumor suppressors or oncogenes. Here we review evidence for such roles in breast cancer (BCa). RUNX1, the predominant RUNX family member in breast epithelial cells, has a tumor suppressor role reflected by many somatic mutations found in primary tumor biopsies. The classical tumor suppressor gene RUNX3 does not consist of such a mutation hot spot, but it too seems to inhibit BCa; it is often inactivated in human BCa tumors and its haploinsufficiency in mice leads to spontaneous BCa development. The tumor suppressor activities of RUNX1 and RUNX3 are mediated in part by antagonism of estrogen signaling, a feature recently attributed to RUNX2 as well. Paradoxically, however RUNX2, a master osteoblast regulator, has been implicated in various aspects of metastasis in general and bone metastasis in particular. Reciprocating the anti-estrogenic tumor suppressor activity of RUNX proteins, inhibition of RUNX2 by estrogens may help explain their context-dependent anti-metastatic roles. Such roles are reserved to non-osseous metastasis, because ERα is associated with increased, not decreased skeletal dissemination of BCa cells. Finally, based on diverse expression patterns in BCa subtypes, the successful use of future RUNX-based therapies will most likely require careful patient selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Core Binding Factor alpha Subunits / genetics
  • Core Binding Factor alpha Subunits / metabolism*
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Core Binding Factor alpha Subunits
  • Estrogens
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins