Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) accounts for 15–20% of all breast cancer cases, yet is responsible for a disproportionately high percentage of breast cancer mortalities. Thus, there is an urgent need to identify novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets based on the molecular events driving TNBC pathobiology. Estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) is known to elicit anti-cancer effects in TNBC, however its mechanisms of action remain elusive. Here, we report the expression profiles of ERβ and its association with clinicopathological features and patient outcomes in the largest cohort of TNBC to date. In this cohort, ERβ was expressed in approximately 18% of TNBCs, and expression of ERβ was associated with favorable clinicopathological features, but correlated with different overall survival outcomes according to menopausal status. Mechanistically, ERβ formed a co-repressor complex involving enhancer of zeste homologue 2/polycomb repressive complex 2 (EZH2/PRC2) that functioned to suppress oncogenic NFκB/RELA (p65) activity. Importantly, p65 was shown to be required for formation of this complex and for ERβ-mediated suppression of TNBC. Our findings indicate that ERβ+ tumors exhibit different characteristics compared to ERβ− tumors and demonstrate that ERβ functions as a molecular switch for EZH2, repurposing it for tumor suppressive activities and repression of oncogenic p65 signaling.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Pharmacology (medical)