Cancer Res. 80 (20) 4487-4499 [2020-10-15; online 2020-08-27]
Although blocking estrogen-dependent signaling is a cornerstone of adjuvant treatment for breast cancer, 25% of patients experience recurrent disease. Stroma events including innate immune responses are key in cancer progression. How different estrogen receptor (ER)-targeting therapies, including the partial agonist tamoxifen and the pure antagonist fulvestrant, affect the tumor stroma has not yet been elucidated. Fulvestrant is used in only postmenopausal patients, and its effects in the presence of estradiol remain undetermined. Here we observe that fulvestrant decreases ER+ breast cancer growth compared with tamoxifen in the presence of physiologic levels of estradiol in human breast cancer in nude mice and in murine breast cancer in immune-competent mice. Fulvestrant significantly inhibited macrophage and neutrophil infiltration in both models. These effects were corroborated in a zebrafish model where fulvestrant inhibited neutrophil- and macrophage-dependent cancer cell dissemination more effectively than tamoxifen. A comprehensive analysis of 234 human proteins released into the cancer microenvironment by the cancer cells sampled via microdialysis in vivo revealed that 38 proteins were altered following both treatments; 25 of these proteins were associated with immune response and were altered by fulvestrant only. Compared with tamoxifen, fulvestrant significantly affected inflammatory proteins released by murine stroma cells. Importantly, in vivo microdialysis of human ER+ breast cancer revealed that the majority of affected proteins in murine models were upregulated in patients. Together, these results suggest that fulvestrant targets ER+ breast cancer more effectively than tamoxifen even in the presence of estradiol, mainly by attenuation of the innate immune response. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings demonstrate novel effects of the pure antiestrogen fulvestrant in ER+ breast cancer and evaluate its effects under physiologic levels of estradiol, representative of premenopausal patients.