Dehydroepiandrosterone inhibits events related with the metastatic process in breast tumor cell lines

Cancer Biol Ther. 2016 Sep;17(9):915-24. doi: 10.1080/15384047.2016.1195047. Epub 2016 Jun 3.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), an adrenal hormone, has a protective role against cancer. We previously shown that DHEA inhibits the proliferation and migration of cell lines derived from breast cancer; however, the role of DHEA in others events related with these effects are unknown. We hypothesized that DHEA inhibits the expression of proteins and some events related with cell migration and metastasis. We determined the migration in Boyden chambers, the invasion in matrigel, anchorage-independent growth and the formation of spheroids in 3 cell lines (MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, ZR-75-30) derived from breast cancer exposed to DHEA. The secretion of metalloproteinases (MMPs), tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), and several pro-inflammatory molecules in the secretome of these cells was also evaluated. DHEA inhibited the migration in transwells and the invasion in matrigel of MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells. Besides, DHEA inhibited the anchorage-independent growth on agar and decreased the size of spheroids, and also reduced the secretion of IL-1α, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α in all cell lines. Metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) secretion was slightly decreased by DHEA treatment in MDA-MB-231 cells. Our results also showed that inhibition of migration and invasion induced by DHEA in breast cancer cells is correlated with the decrease of cytokine/chemokine secretion and the diminution of tumor cells growth. MCF-7 cells were the most responsive to the exposure to DHEA, whereas ZR-75-30 cells responded less to this hormone, suggesting that DHEA could be used in the treatment of breast cancer in early stages.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Dehydroepiandrosterone; invasion; metastasis; migration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Cell Growth Processes / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Neoplasm Metastasis


  • Dehydroepiandrosterone