Context: Resistance to conventional antiestrogens is a major cause of treatment failure and, ultimately, death in breast cancer.
Objective: The objective of the study was to identify small-molecule estrogen receptor (ER)-α antagonists that work differently from tamoxifen and other selective estrogen receptor modulators.
Design: Based on in silico screening of a pharmacophore database using a computed model of the BRCA1-ER-α complex (with ER-α liganded to 17β-estradiol), we identified a candidate group of small-molecule compounds predicted to bind to a BRCA1-binding interface separate from the ligand-binding pocket and the coactivator binding site of ER-α. Among 40 candidate compounds, six inhibited estradiol-stimulated ER-α activity by at least 50% in breast carcinoma cells, with IC50 values ranging between 3 and 50 µM. These ER-α inhibitory compounds were further studied by molecular and cell biological techniques.
Results: The compounds strongly inhibited ER-α activity at concentrations that yielded little or no nonspecific toxicity, but they produced only a modest inhibition of progesterone receptor activity. Importantly, the compounds blocked proliferation and inhibited ER-α activity about equally well in antiestrogen-sensitive and antiestrogen-resistant breast cancer cells. Representative compounds disrupted the interaction of BRCA1 and ER-α in the cultured cells and blocked the interaction of ER-α with the estrogen response element. However, the compounds had no effect on the total cellular ER-α levels.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that we have identified a new class of ER-α antagonists that work differently from conventional antiestrogens (eg, tamoxifen and fulvestrant).