Epithelial morphogenesis and oncogenic transformation can cause loss of cell adhesion, and detached cells are eliminated by anoikis. Here, we reveal that transforming growth factor β receptor 3 (TGFBR3) acts as an anoikis mediator through the coordination of activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4). In breast cancer tissues, TGFBR3 is progressively lost, but elevated TGFBR3 is associated with a histologic subtype characterized by cellular adhesion defects. Dissecting the impact of extracellular matrix (ECM) deprivation, we demonstrate that ECM loss promotes TGFBR3 expression, which in turn causes differentiation of cell aggregates, conferring a low-adhesion phenotype, and drives the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. We demonstrate that inhibition of TGFBR3 impairs epithelial anoikis by activating ATF4 signaling. These preclinical findings provide a rationale for therapeutic inhibition of ATF4 in the subgroup of breast cancer patients with low TGFBR3 expression.