Most invasive lobular breast cancers (ILC) are of the luminal A subtype and are strongly hormone receptor positive. Yet, ILC is relatively resistant to tamoxifen and associated with inferior long-term outcomes compared to invasive ductal cancers (IDC). In this study, we sought to gain mechanistic insights into these clinical findings that are not explained by the genetic landscape of ILC and to identify strategies to improve patient outcomes. A comprehensive analysis of the epigenome of ILC in pre-clinical models and clinical samples showed that, compared to IDC, ILC harbored a distinct chromatin state linked to gained recruitment of FOXA1, a lineage-defining pioneer transcription factor. This resulted in an ILC-unique FOXA1-estrogen receptor (ER) axis that promoted the transcription of genes associated with tumor progression and poor outcomes. The ILC-unique FOXA1-ER axis led to retained ER chromatin binding after tamoxifen treatment, which facilitated tamoxifen resistance while remaining strongly dependent on ER signaling. Mechanistically, gained FOXA1 binding was associated with the auto-induction of FOXA1 in ILC through an ILC-unique FOXA1 binding site. Targeted silencing of this regulatory site resulted in the disruption of the feed-forward loop and growth inhibition in ILC. In summary, ILC is characterized by a unique chromatin state and FOXA1-ER axis that is associated with tumor progression, offering a novel mechanism of tamoxifen resistance. These results underscore the importance of conducting clinical trials dedicated to patients with ILC in order to optimize treatments in this breast cancer subtype.

This content is only available via PDF.

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this content.