Models of long-term estrogen-deprived breast cancer cells are utilized in the laboratory to mimic clinical aromatase inhibitor-resistant breast cancer and serve as a tool to discover new therapeutic strategies. The MCF-7:5C and MCF-7:2A subclones were generated through long-term estrogen deprivation of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive MCF-7 cells, and represent anti-hormone‑resistant breast cancer. MCF-7:5C cells paradoxically undergo estrogen-induced apoptosis within seven days of estrogen (estradiol, E2) treatment; MCF-7:2A cells also experience E(2)-induced apoptosis but evade dramatic cell death until approximately 14 days of treatment. To discover and define the mechanisms by which MCF-7:2A cells survive two weeks of E(2) treatment, systematic experiments were performed in this study. The data suggest that MCF-7:2A cells employ stronger antioxidant defense mechanisms than do MCF-7:5C cells, and that oxidative stress is ultimately required for MCF-7:2A cells to die in response to E2 treatment. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family member activation is also essential for E(2)-induced apoptosis to occur in MCF-7:2A cells; upregulation of TNFα occurs simultaneously with oxidative stress activation. Although the unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling pattern is similar to that in MCF-7:5C cells, it is not sufficient to cause cell death in MCF-7:2A cells. Additionally, increased insulin-like growth factor receptor β (IGF-1Rβ) confers a mechanism of growth and anti-apoptotic advantage in MCF-7:2A cells.