. Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancers comprise the majority (~70-80%) of breast cancers, the majority of late recurrences emanating from indolent or dormant breast cancer, and the majority of breast cancer deaths resulting from metastatic disease. Anti-endocrine therapy with tamoxifen remains the cornerstone of adjuvant therapy for ER+ breast cancers, particularly in premenopausal women, but also following treatment with aromatase inhibitors in the post-menopausal setting. Nevertheless, many women do not respond to tamoxifen in initial therapy, and of those that do, one third will relapse with resistant and metastatic disease within 15 years. Endocrine resistant ER+ breast cancers therefore remain one of the major causes of breast cancer metastasis and mortality. In fact, initial or acquired resistance to tamoxifen is involved in more than half of all ER+ breast cancer deaths. Reversing resistance to tamoxifen therapy is a crucial overarching breast cancer challenge. We provide preclinical research demonstrating the discovery of a crucial axis that provides tamoxifen resistance to ER+ breast cancer cells mediated by the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)/estrogen receptor ? (ER?) pathways, and their impact on selective mRNA translation through the kinase mTOR. Moreover, we demonstrate that there are several experimental drugs developed for other indications that can be repurposed to target this axis for the treatment of tamoxifen resistant ER+ breast cancers. Tamoxifen is an estrogen receptor antagonizing small molecule used for treatment for ER+ breast cancer worldwide. Resistance is well established to commonly involve overexpression of EGFRs on breast cancer cells, and hyper-activation or increased signaling of the MAPK-ERK and PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathways. We have now identified two novel hyperactivated mediators of resistance to tamoxifen therapy that lie at the intersection of these key pathways, and we show their importance in resistance. The two effectors of tamoxifen resistance are the inhibitor of translation initiation factor eIF4E, known as 4E-BP1, and the phosphorylation of eIF4E by hyper- activation of its ERK associated kinase, MNK1. Both are therapeutic targets for existing experimental drugs developed for other purposes with good toxicity profiles. eIF4E comprises the basic translation component for loading ribosomes onto mRNAs. Many studies by my group and others have shown that increased phosphorylation of eIF4E is controlled by the ERK-MNK1 pathway, and its increased abundance is controlled by the mTOR/4E-BP1 pathway, which selectively upregulates translation of specific mRNAs required for survival, proliferation and metastasis of breast cancer cells.

Public Health Relevance

We will study how tamoxifen resistance in ER+ breast cancer by EGFR/ER? pathways involves selective mRNA translation mediated by hyperactivation of the protein kinases mTORC1 and ERK/MNK1, through the selective translation of specific mRNAs and eIF4E availability and phosphorylation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Cancer Molecular Pathobiology Study Section (CAMP)
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Kondapaka, Sudhir B
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New York University
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
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de la Parra, Columba; Walters, Beth A; Geter, Phillip et al. (2018) Translation initiation factors and their relevance in cancer. Curr Opin Genet Dev 48:82-88
Ernlund, Amanda W; Schneider, Robert J; Ruggles, Kelly V (2018) RIVET: comprehensive graphic user interface for analysis and exploration of genome-wide translatomics data. BMC Genomics 19:809
de la Parra, Columba; Ernlund, Amanda; Alard, Amandine et al. (2018) A widespread alternate form of cap-dependent mRNA translation initiation. Nat Commun 9:3068
Geter, Phillip A; Ernlund, Amanda W; Bakogianni, Sofia et al. (2017) Hyperactive mTOR and MNK1 phosphorylation of eIF4E confer tamoxifen resistance and estrogen independence through selective mRNA translation reprogramming. Genes Dev 31:2235-2249