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Review
. 2005 Feb;93(2-5):221-36.
doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2005.02.007.

Recent Insight on the Control of Enzymes Involved in Estrogen Formation and Transformation in Human Breast Cancer

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Review

Recent Insight on the Control of Enzymes Involved in Estrogen Formation and Transformation in Human Breast Cancer

Jorge R Pasqualini et al. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. .

Abstract

The great majority of breast cancers are in their early stage hormone-dependent and it is well accepted that estradiol (E2) plays an important role in the genesis and evolution of this tumor. Human breast cancer tissues contain all the enzymes: estrone sulfatase, 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, aromatase involved in the last steps of E2 bioformation. Sulfotransferases which convert estrogens into the biologically inactive estrogen sulfates are also present in this tissue. Quantitative data show that the 'sulfatase pathway', which transforms estrogen sulfates into the bioactive unconjugated E2, is 100-500 times higher than the 'aromatase pathway', which converts androgens into estrogens. The treatment of breast cancer patients with anti-aromatases is largely developed with very positive results. However, the formation of E2 via the 'sulfatase pathway' is very important in the breast cancer tissue. In recent years it was found that antiestrogens (e.g. tamoxifen, 4-hydroxytamoxifen), various progestins (e.g. promegestone, nomegestrol acetate, medrogestone, dydrogesterone, norelgestromin), tibolone and its metabolites, as well as other steroidal (e.g. sulfamates) and non-steroidal compounds, are potent sulfatase inhibitors. In another series of studies, it was found that E2 itself has a strong anti-sulfatase action. This paradoxical effect of E2 adds a new biological response of this hormone and could be related to estrogen replacement therapy in which it was observed to have either no effect or to decrease breast cancer mortality in postmenopausal women. Interesting information is that high expression of steroid sulfatase mRNA predicts a poor prognosis in patients with +ER. These progestins, as well as tibolone, can also block the conversion of estrone to estradiol by the inhibition of the 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type I (17beta-HSD-1). High expressison of 17beta-HSD-1 can be an indicator of adverse prognosis in ER-positive patients. It was shown that nomegestrol acetate, medrogestone, promegestone or tibolone, could stimulate the sulfotransferase activity for the local production of estrogen sulfates. This is an important point in the physiopathology of this disease, as it is well known that estrogen sulfates are biologically inactive. A possible correlation between this stimulatory effect on sulfotransferase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation is presented. In agreement with all this information, we have proposed the concept of selective estrogen enzyme modulators (SEEM). In conclusion, the blockage in the formation of estradiol via sulfatase, or the stimulatory effect on sulfotransferase activity in combination with anti-aromatases can open interesting and new possibilities in clinical applications in breast cancer.

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