Endocrine therapy resistance invariably develops in advanced estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, but the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. We have identified C-terminal SRC kinase (CSK) as a critical node in a previously unappreciated negative feedback loop that limits the efficacy of current ER-targeted therapies. Estrogen directly drives CSK expression in ER+ breast cancer. At low CSK levels, as is the case in patients with ER+ breast cancer resistant to endocrine therapy and with the poorest outcomes, the p21 protein-activated kinase 2 (PAK2) becomes activated and drives estrogen-independent growth. PAK2 overexpression is also associated with endocrine therapy resistance and worse clinical outcome, and the combination of a PAK2 inhibitor with an ER antagonist synergistically suppressed breast tumor growth. Clinical approaches to endocrine therapy-resistant breast cancer must overcome the loss of this estrogen-induced negative feedback loop that normally constrains the growth of ER+ tumors.
Keywords: CRISPR screen; CSK; breast cancer; endocrine resistance; estrogen receptor.
Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.