Although clinical observations have shown that estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast tumors are more responsive to hormonal therapy than ER-negative (ER-) tumors, it remains controversial whether ER status can predict chemotherapeutic response. To determine if there was any correlation between estrogen and progesterone values and in vitro chemosensitivity to various anticancer drugs, clonogenic (CA), estrogen (ERA), and progesterone (PRA) assays on breast cancers were performed on 100 patients. Clonogenic assays were performed using the double-layer soft agar technique with continuous drug exposures. ERAs and PRAs were performed using the charcoal-coated dextran method. Chemosensitivity was defined as 50% inhibition of colony formation. ERA was considered positive if ≥5 fmole/mg cytosol and PRA positive if ≥10 fmole/mg cytosol. Significant tumor growth (> 30 colonies/plate) was achieved in 81 100 assays. ERA and PRA values were not predictive of colony formation in vitro. Of all agents or combinations of agents tested (L-PAM, 5-FU, MTX, adriamycin, vinblastine, cis-plat, FAC, CMF), only the response to 5-FU correlated significantly with ERA. Eight of 11 (73%) of the ER- tumors were sensitive to 5-FU, whereas only 6 20 (30%) of ER+ tumors were sensitive (P < 0.05). ER- tumors were also more likely to be sensitive to CMF (P = 0.09) and adriamycin (P = 0.07) than ER+ tumors. PRA values were not predictive of chemosensitivity, nor did combining PRA and ERA enhance the predictive value of ERA alone.
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