Retinoblastoma tumor suppressor pathway in breast cancer: prognosis, precision medicine, and therapeutic interventions

Breast Cancer Res. 2014 May 7;16(3):207. doi: 10.1186/bcr3652.


A series of recent studies have demonstrated that the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor (RB) pathway plays a critical role in multiple clinically relevant aspects of breast cancer biology, spanning early stage lesions to targeted treatment of metastatic disease. In ductal carcinoma in situ, multiple groups have shown that dysregulation of the RB pathway is critically associated with recurrence and disease progression. Functional models have similarly illustrated key roles for RB in regulating epithelial-mesenchymal transition and other features contributing to aggressive disease. Invasive breast cancers are treated in distinct fashions, and heterogeneity within the RB pathway relates to prognosis and response to commonly used therapeutics. Luminal B breast cancers that have a poor prognosis amongst estrogen receptor-positive disease are defined based on the expression of RB-regulated genes. Such findings have led to clinical interventions that directly target the RB pathway through CDK4/6 inhibition which have promise in both estrogen receptor-positive and Her2-positive disease. In contrast, RB loss results in improved response to chemotherapy in triple-negative breast cancer, where ongoing research is attempting to define intrinsic vulnerabilities for targeted intervention. These findings support a wide-reaching impact of the RB pathway on disease that could be harnessed for improved clinical interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Disease Progression
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / genetics*
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology


  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • CDK4 protein, human
  • CDK6 protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6