CYP19A1/aromatase (Ar) is a prognostic biomarker of gastric cancer (GCa). Ar is a critical enzyme for converting androstenedione to oestradiol in the steroidogenesis cascade. For decades, Ar has been targeted with Ar inhibitors (ARIs) in gynaecologic malignancies; however, it is unexplored in GCa. A single-cohort tissue microarray examination was conducted to study the association between Ar expression and disease outcome in Asian patients with GCa. The results revealed that Ar was a prognostic promoter. Bioinformatics analyses conducted on a Caucasian-based cDNA microarray databank showed Ar to be positively associated with GCa prognosis for multiple clinical modalities, including surgery, 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) for adjuvant chemotherapy, or HER2 positivity. These findings imply that targeting Ar expression exhibits a potential for fulfilling unmet medical needs. Hence, Ar-targeting compounds were tested, and the results showed that exemestane exhibited superior cancer-suppressing efficacy to other ARIs. In addition, exemestane down-regulated Ar expression. Ablating Ar abundance with short hairpin (sh)Ar could also suppress GCa cell growth, and adding 5-FU could facilitate this effect. Notably, adding oestradiol could not prevent exemestane or shAr effects, implicating a nonenzymatic mechanism of Ar in cancer growth. Regarding translational research, treatment with exemestane alone exhibited tumour suppression efficacy in a dose-dependent manner. Combining subminimal doses of 5-FU and exemestane exerted an excellent tumour suppression effect without influencing bodyweight. This study validated the therapeutic potentials of exemestane in GCa. Combination of metronomic 5-FU and exemestane for GCa therapy is recommended.
Keywords: aromatase; exemestane; gastric cancer.
© 2019 The Authors. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine.