Genetic and epigenetic alterations of the estrogen receptor gene and hormone independence in human breast cancer

Oncology. 1998 Dec;55 Suppl 1:11-6. doi: 10.1159/000055254.


The existence of hormone-independent tumors is a substantial problem for the present endocrine treatment of breast cancers. Estrogen receptor (ER) gene mutation can change the biochemical activity of the protein and can affect hormone responsiveness. However, quite a few mutations of significance have been described in breast cancer. Recently, numerous variant ERs have been detected at the mRNA level with alternative splicing, yielding deletion of exon 3, 5, or 7. The truncated ER protein induced from variant mRNA could mainly be exhibited as a repressor through dominant negative effects on normal ER protein. The mechanism of the loss of hormone dependency is, however, still very complex. Further work to assess the correlation between clinical behavior and ER variants is required to determine whether these variants play a role in hormone-resistant disease. Additionally, the DNA methylation of the ER gene itself may control ER expression. These epigenetic changes can play an important role in the loss of hormone dependence in breast cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • DNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, Estrogen