Estrogen receptor-α (ER-α), encoded by ESR1, is detected by immunohistochemistry in approximately 70% of invasive breast cancers and serves as a strong predictive biomarker. ESR1-activating mutations in the ligand-binding domain have been reported in up to 35–40% of ER-positive metastatic breast cancers and are associated with endocrine therapy resistance and disease progression. At present, it is unclear whether ESR1 mutations alter the immunohistochemical detection of ER performed in routine clinical practice. In this study, ESR1 mutations in breast cancer were identified utilizing Memorial Sloan Kettering-Integrated Mutation Profiling of Actionable Cancer Targets (MSK-IMPACT), a Food and Drug Administration-approved hybridization capture-based next-generation sequencing assay. Five hundred and eighty-six breast cancers from patients with locally advanced or metastatic disease were analyzed using MSK-IMPACT in the study period. ESR1 somatic alterations were identified in 67 breast cancer samples from 66 patients. Immunohistochemical analysis of ER, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 was performed on the primary and treated breast cancers from these patients at the time of diagnosis. Twenty unique ESR1 mutations were identified involving the ligand-binding domain, all in breast cancer samples from patients previously treated with endocrine therapy. The most frequent mutations were D538G (n = 22), Y537S (n = 7), and E380Q (n = 7). All breast cancer samples with an ESR1 mutation were ER-positive by immunohistochemistry. Review of the ER immunohistochemistry in the paired untreated primary tumor and treated tumor from 34 patients showed no detectable change in the ER-positive immunohistochemical status (median percentage of invasive tumor cells with nuclear staining: untreated primary tumor 90%, treated tumor 95%). We conclude that ESR1 mutations do not appreciably diminish ER-positive staining by immunohistochemistry. In addition to standard biomarker testing by immunohistochemistry, the assessment of ESR1 mutations by molecular testing can help guide the clinical management of patients with ER-positive breast cancer in the setting of endocrine resistance and progression of disease.
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This research was funded in part through the NIH/NCI Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA008748 and supported by the Marie-Josée and Henry R Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology. SC has grant support by NIH R01CA204999.
Conflict of interest
All authors have read and approved the manuscript and have contributed sufficiently to the project to be included as authors. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.