Exposure to ionizing radiation was shown to result in an increased risk of breast cancer. There is strong evidence that steroid hormones influence radiosensitivity and breast cancer risk. Tumors may be initiated by a small subpopulation of cancer stem cells (CSCs). In order to assess whether the modulation of radiation-induced breast cancer risk by steroid hormones could involve CSCs, we measured by flow cytometry the proportion of CSCs in irradiated breast cancer cell lines after progesterone and estrogen treatment. Progesterone stimulated the expansion of the CSC compartment both in progesterone receptor (PR)-positive breast cancer cells and in PR-negative normal cells. In MCF10A normal epithelial PR-negative cells, progesterone-treatment and irradiation triggered cancer and stemness-associated microRNA regulations (such as the downregulation of miR-22 and miR-29c expression), which resulted in increased proportions of radiation-resistant tumor-initiating CSCs.
Vares, G., Cui, X., Wang, B., Nakajima, T., & Nenoi, M. (2013). Generation of Breast Cancer Stem Cells by Steroid Hormones in Irradiated Human Mammary Cell Lines. PLoS ONE, 8(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0077124