Luminal breast cancer: from biology to treatment

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2013 Sep;10(9):494-506. doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2013.124. Epub 2013 Jul 23.


Oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive--or luminal--tumours represent around two-thirds of all breast cancers. Luminal breast cancer is a highly heterogeneous disease comprising different histologies, gene-expression profiles and mutational patterns, with very varied clinical courses and responses to systemic treatment. Despite adjuvant endocrine therapy and chemotherapy treatment for patients at high risk of relapse, both early and late relapses still occur, a fact that highlights the unmet medical needs of these patients. Ongoing research aims to identify those patients who can be spared adjuvant chemotherapy and who will benefit from extended adjuvant hormone therapy. This research also aims to explore the role of adjuvant bisphosphonates, to interrogate new agents for targeting minimal residual disease, and to address endocrine resistance. Data from next-generation sequencing studies have given us new insight into the biology of luminal breast cancer and, together with advances in preclinical models and the availability of newer targeted agents, have led to the testing of rationally chosen combination treatments in clinical trials. However, a major challenge will be to make sense of the large amount of patient genomic data that is becoming increasingly available. This analysis will be critical to our understanding how intertumour and intratumour heterogeneity can influence treatment response and resistance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Receptors, Estrogen