Author(s): Hong Y, Chen S
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Abstract Aromatase is the enzyme synthesizing estrogens from androgens. In estrogen-dependent breast tumors, estrogens induce the expression of growth factors responsible for cancer cell proliferation. In situ estrogen synthesis by aromatase "is thought to play a key role in the promotion of breast cancer growth. Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) provide new approaches for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer by inhibiting estrogen biosynthesis. Through reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunohistochemical techniques, aromatase has been found to be expressed in many endocrine tissues and tumors originating from these tissues. Unexpectedly, this enzyme is now known to also be expressed in liver, lung, and colon cancers. Such findings suggest a potential role for endocrine manipulation of these types of cancer using AIs. Three Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved AIs, anastrozole (Arimidex), letrozole (Femara), and exemestane (Aromasin), effectively challenging tamoxifen, have been used as first-line drugs in the treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancer, and possibly other aromatase-expressing cancers. In addition, natural anti-aromatase chemicals, such as flavones and coumarins, have been identified. Efforts to develop new lines of AIs derived from these phytochemicals have been initiated in several laboratories. Finally, significant progress has been made in the understanding of the structure-function relationship of aromatase. Such information has helped the examination of binding characteristics of AIs, the evaluation of reaction mechanism of aromatase, and the explanation of the molecular basis for a low catalytic activity of the natural variant, M364T.
This article was published in Ann N Y Acad Sci
and referenced in Journal of Fertilization: In Vitro - IVF-Worldwide, Reproductive Medicine, Genetics & Stem Cell Biology