Increased androgen receptor expression in estrogen receptor-positive/progesterone receptor-negative breast cancer



Expression of estrogen receptor alpha (ER) and/or progesterone receptor (PR) defines luminal breast cancer. Even though androgen (AR) and glucocorticoid receptors (GR) are highly expressed in luminal breast cancers, prognostic value remains uncertain and concomitant expression of these four hormone receptors is still unexplored.


Here, we evaluated ER, PR, AR, and GR expression, using immunohistochemistry, in a cohort of 169 breast cancer patients and correlated these findings with clinical and pathological parameters.


We found that AR is more frequently expressed and at higher levels in the ER+PR− subset compared to ER+PR+ tumors. There were no significant differences in GR expression between tumor subsets. Moreover, most luminal tumors also expressed either AR or GR and most basal tumors were also negative for AR and GR.


These data suggest that targeting AR in ER+PR− tumors may represent a promising therapeutic alternative in hormonal refractory tumors.

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The authors are very grateful to the staff of Hospital Magdalena V. de Martínez and to Dr. Silvia Vanzulli (Academia Nacional de Medicina) for the technical assistance.


This work was funded by Instituto Nacional del Cáncer (Grant #2018–2019), Agencia Nacional de Promoción de Ciencia y Tecnología (ANAPCYT, PICT 2015/1022), Fundación para el Progreso de la Medicina (Grant #C03), Fundación Gador, Fundación René Barón and, Fundación Williams. AE is a CONICET doctoral fellow. LG is a fellow from Hospital Universitario Austral. CL and CAL are members of CONICET´s Research Career.

Author information

XG, LG, and MM acquired and analyzed the data. AE analyzed the data and provided statistical support. ES, PMV, JB, and HG contributed for the collection of the samples. CL and CAL provided leadership in the development of the study, supervised the data analysis, and wrote the manuscript.

Correspondence to Caroline A. Lamb.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the Hospital Magdalena V. de Martínez and IBYME-CONICET (CE 026/2012).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

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García, X., Elía, A., Galizzi, L. et al. Increased androgen receptor expression in estrogen receptor-positive/progesterone receptor-negative breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2020) doi:10.1007/s10549-020-05527-3

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  • Androgen receptor
  • Breast cancer
  • Luminal B subtype
  • Human samples