Long-term exposure to estrogen enhances chemotherapeutic efficacy potentially through epigenetic mechanism in human breast cancer cells

Yu Wei Chang, Kamaleshwar P. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Chemotherapy is the most common clinical option for treatment of breast cancer. However, the efficacy of chemotherapy depends on the age of breast cancer patients. Breast tissues are estrogen responsive and the levels of ovarian estrogen vary among the breast cancer patients primarily between pre- and post-menopausal age. Whether this age-dependent variation in estrogen levels influences the chemotherapeutic efficacy in breast cancer patients is not known. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of natural estrogen 17 beta-estradiol (E2) on the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs in breast cancer cells. Estrogen responsive MCF-7 and T47D breast cancer cells were long-term exposed to 100 pg/ml estrogen, and using these cells the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs doxorubicin and cisplatin were determined. The result of cell viability and cell cycle analysis revealed increased sensitivities of doxorubicin and cisplatin in estrogen-exposed MCF-7 and T47D cells as compared to their respective control cells. Gene expression analysis of cell cycle, anti-apoptosis, DNA repair, and drug transporter genes further confirmed the increased efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs in estrogen-exposed cells at molecular level. To further understand the role of epigenetic mechanism in enhanced chemotherapeutic efficacy by estrogen, cells were pre-treated with epigenetic drugs, 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine and Trichostatin A prior to doxorubicin and cisplatin treatments. The 5-aza-2 deoxycytidine pre-treatment significantly decreased the estrogen-induced efficacy of doxorubicin and cisplatin, suggesting the role of estrogen-induced hypermethylation in enhanced sensitivity of these drugs in estrogen-exposed cells. In summary, the results of this study revealed that sensitivity to chemotherapy depends on the levels of estrogen in breast cancer cells. Findings of this study will have clinical implications in selecting the chemotherapy strategies for treatment of breast cancer patients depending on the serum estrogen levels that varies among pre- and post-menopausal age of the patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0174227
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017


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