Minireview: Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM): The "Other" Steroid-Sensitive Cancer

Endocrinology. 2016 Sep;157(9):3374-83. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1395. Epub 2016 Jul 13.


Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a devastating rare lung disease affecting primarily childbearing age women in which tumors consisting of abnormal smooth-muscle-like cells grow within the lungs and progressively lead to loss of pulmonary function. LAM cells metastasize to the lungs, predominantly through the lymphatics; however, the source of the LAM cell is still unknown. LAM cells contain inactivating mutations in genes encoding tuberous sclerosis 1 or 2, proteins that normally limit cell growth through suppression of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1. As of today, sirolimus (an mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 inhibitor) is the only treatment, available for LAM patients that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration; however, this drug and others in its class provide stabilization but not remission of LAM. One of the biggest problems in treating LAM is that both the origin of the LAM cells and the mechanism of the sexual dimorphism in LAM are still not understood. LAM cells express estrogen and progesterone receptors, and lung function declines during periods of high circulating estrogen levels. Moreover, numerous basic research studies find that estrogen is a key driving force in LAM cell proliferation, migration, and metastasis. In this review, we highlight recent insights regarding the role of steroid hormones in LAM and discuss possible explanations for the profound female sexual dimorphism of LAM.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cathepsin K / metabolism
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leiomyoma / pathology
  • Leukocyte Elastase / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / etiology*
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / genetics
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / metabolism
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Progesterone / metabolism*
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Uterine Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterus / pathology


  • Estrogens
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Progesterone
  • Leukocyte Elastase
  • Cathepsin K
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases