Inflammatory macrophage derived TNFα downregulates estrogen receptor α via FOXO3a inactivation in human breast cancer cells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Patients with estrogen receptor α positive (ERα+) breast cancer can respond to endocrine therapy, but treatment resistance is common and associated with downregulation of ERα expression in the dormant residual cells. Here we show, using long-term NSG xenograft models of human breast cancer and primary human monocytes, in vitro primary cell cultures and tumors from breast cancer patients, that macrophage derived tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) downregulates ERα in breast cancer cells via inactivation of the transcription factor Forkhead box O transcription factor 3a (FOXO3a). Moreover, presence of tumor associated macrophages in the primary tumor of breast cancer patients, was associated with ERα negativity, and with worse prognosis in patients with ERα+ tumors. We propose that pro-inflammatory macrophages, despite being tumoricidal, may have direct effects on tumor progression and endocrine resistance in breast cancer patients. Our findings suggest that TNFα antagonists should be evaluated for treatment of ERα+ breast cancer.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology


  • Breast cancer, Endocrine resistance, Estrogen receptor, FOXO3a, Macrophage, TNFalpha
Original languageEnglish
Article number111932
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
Early online date2020 Mar 4
Publication statusPublished - 2020 May 1
Publication categoryResearch