Placental supernatants’ enhancement of the metastatic potential of breast cancer cells: is estrogen receptor (ERα) essential for this phenomenon?

Michal Bar, Oded Komemi, Meir Pomeranz, Ami Fishman, Liat Drucker, Michael Lishner, Shelly Tartakover Matalon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage in comparison to non-pregnant women. The placenta secretes hormones and cytokines, which affect breast cancer progression. Previously, we demonstrated that human placental secretome facilitates the survival and migration of ERα+ breast cancer cells (BCCL), but pregnant women have a relatively high frequency of ERα-negative tumors. In the current study, we analyzed the effect of placental secretome on ERα-negative BCCL. Methods: BCCL [MCF-7(estrogen/progesterone receptor positive (ERα+/PR+), ERα reduced MCF-7 (siRNA, MCF-7 ERα−), HS-578 and BT-549 cells (both ER−/PR−)] were exposed to supernatants (collected from first trimester human placental explants and from control BCCL) or to E2 + P4 (estrogen + progesterone) in placental supernatant concentrations and then tested for cell proliferation (number, cell cycle, PCNA), cell-death, cell migration, STAT3 pathway activation and functionality. Results: Silencing ERα in the MCF-7 cells negated the placental supernatant and E2 + P4 enhancement of cell migration (' 130%, p ' 0.05), number (' 120%) and survival (~ 130%). However, it had no such effect on MCF-7-ER− migration, which was still elevated in the presence of placental secretome. ER−/PR− BCCL were unaffected by the hormones, but placental secretome significantly elevated their migration (115%), number (140–170%), STAT3 phosphorylation (~ 180%) and BT-549 STAT3 level. These effects were negated by the STAT3 inhibitor. Conclusions: Placental supernatant facilitates BCCL malignant characteristics by activating ERα in estrogen responsive cells and STAT3 in ERα- BCCL. This indicates a possible mechanism that may underlie PABC’s advanced state and suggests STAT3 pathway as a therapeutic target for PABC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-991
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019


FundersFunder number
Dr. Leo Mintz Foundation
Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University


    • Breast cancer
    • ERα
    • Placenta
    • Pregnancy
    • STAT3


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