Did ER/PR-negative cancers lose receptors?

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Question from Jess: Do you feel that ER/PR-negative tumors started out with receptors and somehow lost them? If so, wouldn't that mean that estrogen played a role in the development of the cancer?
Answers - Kathy D. Miller, M.D. This is an excellent question. We used to think that ER-negative tumors were just ER-positive tumors that somehow lost the estrogen receptor. That is definitely not true. With newer techniques that allow us to look at the expression of thousands of genes in breast cancer, it is very clear that ER-positive breast cancers are different in many ways from ER-negative tumors.

We now think of ER-positive and ER-negative cancers as two different diseases that need different treatments. ER-positive tumors derive the greatest benefit from anti-estrogen therapies, while ER-negative tumors derive greatest benefit from chemotherapy.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Hormone-Receptor-Negative Breast Cancer featured Kathy D. Miller, M.D., Marisa Weiss, M.D., and moderator Jennifer Armstrong, M.D. answering your questions about a wide range of issues related to hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in November 2005.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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