Role of the androgen receptor in human breast cancer

J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 1998 Jan;3(1):95-103. doi: 10.1023/a:1018730519839.


Although the androgen receptor (AR)3 is often co-expressed with the estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) in human breast tumors, its role in breast cancer is poorly understood. Specific growth stimulatory and inhibitory actions of androgens have been described in human breast cancer cell lines. The mechanisms by which androgens exert these contrasting growth effects are unknown. A commonly utilized second line therapy for the treatment of advanced breast cancer is high dose medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). Although MPA, a synthetic progestin, was thought to act exclusively through the PR, the androgenic side-effects observed in women taking MPA suggest that its action may also be mediated in part by the AR. In support of this hypothesis, the level of AR measured by radioligand binding in primary breast tumors was correlated with the duration of response to MPA treatment following failure of tamoxifen therapy. Recent data suggest that the presence of structurally altered AR in breast cancers may account for unresponsiveness to MPA in some of these cases. Further studies are warranted to determine the role of AR mediated pathways in regulating breast tumor growth. In particular, identification of androgen-regulated genes may lead to new possibilities for the hormonal treatment of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology*


  • Receptors, Androgen