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Free access

Ann M Dorward, Kathryn L Shultz, and Wesley G Beamer

The reproductive hormone environment is an important influence upon spontaneous ovarian granulosa cell (GC) tumor development in genetically susceptible (SWR × SWXJ-9) F1 female mice: androgenic support during puberty stimulates tumorigenesis, while exposure to 17β-estradiol (E2) suppresses tumor initiation. We sought to determine whether gonadotropic stimulation was sufficient to initiate GC tumors in a grafted model system, and to determine the potential for dietary isoflavones (genistein and daidzein) as alternatives to E2 for tumor chemoprevention in vivo. Isolated ovaries from pre-pubertal (SWR × SWXJ-9) F1 females were transferred to the kidney capsule of host mice homozygous for the hypogonadal (hpg/hpg) and severe combined immunodeficiency (scid/scid) mutations. CB17; HPG-Prkdc scid Gnrh1 hpg/Bm host mice received either follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), or a functional analog for LH human chorionic gonadotropin for 2 consecutive weeks, at which time the ovary grafts were examined for evidence of tumor initiation. LH analog administration, but not FSH, initiated GC tumorigenesis in the graft system, suggesting that the LH surge at puberty initiates GC tumor development in genetically susceptible female mice. To assess the chemopreventive potential of phytoestrogens, GC tumor frequency was compared between (SWR × SWXJ-9) F1 females reared on an isoflavone-free diet versus a diet supplemented with 125 μg/g each of the isoflavones daidzein and genistein. It was observed that (SWR × SWXJ-9) F1 females reared on isoflavone-supplemented diet maintained significantly higher GC tumor frequency (22%) than females reared on isoflavone-free diet (11%), and that non-tumor-bearing siblings reared on the isoflavones had significantly increased ovarian weight, indicative of an overall stimulation of the reproductive hormone axis. The stimulation of GC tumorigenesis by isoflavones, which contrasts with the chemopreventive action of E2 (2.5 mg/kg) administration during pubertal maturation, may result from general stimulation of ovarian growth, and the inability of the genistein and daidzein supplements to suppress LH secretion.

Free access

Francesmary Modugno, Robin Laskey, Ashlee L Smith, Courtney L Andersen, Paul Haluska, and Steffi Oesterreich

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide among women in developed countries and the most lethal of all gynecologic malignancies. There is a critical need for the introduction of targeted therapies to improve outcome. Epidemiological evidence suggests a critical role for steroid hormones in ovarian tumorigenesis. There is also increasing evidence from in vitro studies that estrogen, progestin, and androgen regulate proliferation and invasion of epithelial ovarian cancer cells. Limited clinical trials have shown modest response rates; however, they have consistently identified a small subset of patients that respond very well to endocrine therapy with few side effects. We propose that it is timely to perform additional well-designed trials that should include biomarkers of response.

Free access

Jaesung (Peter) Choi, Reena Desai, Yu Zheng, Mu Yao, Qihan Dong, Geoff Watson, David J Handelsman, and Ulla Simanainen

Haploinsufficient inactivating phosphatase and tensin homolog (Pten) mutations cause Cowden syndrome, an autosomal dominant risk genotype for hormone dependent reproductive cancers. As androgen actions mediated via the androgen receptor (AR) supports uterine growth and may modify uterine cancer risk, we hypothesized that a functional AR may increase PTEN inactivation induced uterine cancer. To test the hypothesis, we compared the PTEN knockout (PTENKO) induced uterine pathology in heterozygous PTENKO and combined heterozygous PTEN and complete AR knockout (PTENARKO) female mice. PTENKO induced uterine pathology was significantly reduced by AR inactivation with severe macroscopic uterine pathology present in 21% of PTENARKO vs 46% of PTENKO at a median age of 45 weeks. This could be due to reduced stroma ERα expression in PTENARKO compared to PTENKO uterus, while AR inactivation did not modify PTEN or P-AKT levels. Unexpectedly, while progesterone (P4) is assumed protective in uterine cancers, serum P4 was significantly higher in PTENKO females compared to WT, ARKO, and PTENARKO females consistent with more corpora lutea in PTENKO ovaries. Serum testosterone and ovarian estradiol were similar between all females. Hence, our results demonstrated AR inactivation mediated protection against PTENKO induced uterine pathology and suggests a potential role for antiandrogens in uterine cancer prevention and treatment.

Free access

N Harada, S I Honda, and O Hatano

The effects of two steroidal (4-hydroxyandrostenedione and atamestane) and three non-steroidal (fadrozole, vorozole, and pentrozole) aromatase inhibitors on the levels of aromatase mRNA and protein were examined in vitro and in vivo. Immunocytochemistry revealed increased quantities of immunoreactive aromatase in human choriocarcinoma-derived JEG-3 cells in response to pretreatment with the non-steroidal inhibitors. To elucidate this effect in detail, aromatase protein in JEG-3 cells after treatment with various inhibitors was quantified using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). A time-dependent increase in aromatase protein in the cells was observed with all the aromatase inhibitors except 4-hydroxyandrostenedione, whereas aromatase mRNA levels in the cells remained unchanged during the inhibitor treatment. The three non-steroidal agents caused an approximately fourfold increase in aromatase protein in the cells 24 h after the treatment, as compared with untreated controls. The increase in aromatase protein in the cells was not blocked by treatment with cycloheximide, an inhibitor of protein synthesis. The inhibitors also appeared to block the rapid degradation observed in JEG-3 cells after induction by forskolin. In vivo, daily injection of the inhibitors into adult female mice caused increases in levels of both aromatase mRNA and protein in the ovary. The increase in aromatase mRNA in this in vivo study could be explained by an increase in gonadotropin concentrations in response to decreased plasma concentrations of estrogens. In conclusion, we suggest that aromatase inhibitors increase aromatase protein through stabilization and reduced protein turnover.

Open access

Evangelia-Ourania Fourkala, Alexey Zaikin, Matthew Burnell, Aleksandra Gentry-Maharaj, Jeremy Ford, Richard Gunu, Christina Soromani, Guido Hasenbrink, Ian Jacobs, Anne Dawnay, Martin Widschwendter, Hella Lichtenberg-Fraté, and Usha Menon

Postmenopausal women with elevated serum sex steroids have an increased risk of breast cancer. Most of this risk is believed to be exerted through binding of the sex steroids to their receptors. For the first time, we investigate the association of estrogen receptor (ER) and androgen receptor (AR) serum bioactivity (SB) in addition to hormone levels in samples from women with breast cancer collected before diagnosis. Two hundred postmenopausal women participating in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening who developed ER-positive breast cancer 0.6–5 years after sample donation were identified and matched to 400 controls. ER and AR bioassays were used to measure ERα, ERβ, and AR SB. Androgen and estrogen levels were measured with immunoassays. Subjects were classified according to quintiles of the respective marker among controls and the associations between SB and hormones with breast cancer risk were determined by logistic regression analysis. ERα and ERβ SB were significantly higher before diagnosis compared with controls, while estrogens showed no difference. Women had a twofold increased breast cancer risk if ERα SB (odds ratio (OR), 2.114; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.050–4.425; P=0.040) was in the top quintile >2 years before diagnosis or estrone (OR, 2.205; 95% CI, 1.104–4.586; P=0.029) was in the top quintile <2 years before diagnosis. AR showed no significant association with breast cancer while androstenedione (OR, 3.187; 95% CI, 1.738–6.044; P=0.0003) and testosterone (OR, 2.145; 95% CI, 1.256–3.712; P=0.006) were significantly higher compared with controls and showed a strong association with an almost threefold increased breast cancer risk independent of time to diagnosis. This study provides further evidence on the association of androgens and estrogens with breast cancer. In addition, it reports that high ER but not AR SB is associated with increased breast risk >2 years before diagnosis.

Free access

C K Osborne

Most endocrine therapies for breast cancer inhibit tumor growth by depriving the cell of estrogen or by blocking its receptor. However, some drugs, such as tamoxifen, can bind to the estrogen receptor (ER) and have both estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects, depending on the tissue, cell, or promoter context. These mixed properties may be explained by new information on ER function at the molecular level. Whether a synthetic drug acts as an estrogen or antiestrogen on a specific gene may be dictated by the particular ensemble of ER subtype, receptor interacting proteins, other transcription factors, or specific elements within the promoter of estrogen-regulated genes. Alterations in these other factors may also play a role in resistance to hormonal therapies. Aromatase inhibitors, like ovarian ablation, inhibit growth by lowering the estrogen concentration in blood or in the tumor tissue itself. Aromatase inhibitors are effective even in postmenopausal women with low estrogen concentrations - probably because of the ability of the tumor to become hypersensitive to estrogen after prolonged estrogen deprivation. Given that the ER itself is the prime target for endocrine manipulation, the ideal endocrine therapy may be one that reduces or eliminates ER from the tumor cell. Pure steroidal antiestrogens are then of great interest because, not only do they inhibit ER-induced transactivation of estrogen regulated genes, they also induce ER degradation. Additional clinical trials are necessary to identify the optimal endocrine therapy and optimal sequence of available therapies.

Free access

A Brodie, Q Lu, Y Liu, and B Long

The potential of aromatase (estrogen synthetase) within the breast to provide a significant source of estrogen mediating tumor proliferation is suggested by studies reporting 4- to 6-fold higher estrogen levels in tumors than in plasma of postmenopausal patients with breast cancer. Recent studies in our laboratory have identified aromatase and its mRNA in tumor epithelial cells using immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization. In addition, significant aromatase activity, which was stimulated 7-fold by dexamethasone, was measured in metastatic cells isolated from a breast cancer patient. Increase in proliferation, as measured by proliferating cell nuclear antigen immunostaining in tumor sections and by thymidine incorporation into DNA in response to testosterone, was observed in histocultures of breast cancer samples. This latter effect could be inhibited by 4-hydroxyandrostenedione. These results imply that intratumoral aromatase has functional significance and may be an important target for successful inhibitor treatment of breast cancer patients. To investigate treatment strategies with aromatase inhibitors and antiestrogens, we developed an intratumoral aromatase model to simulate the hormone responsive postmenopausal breast cancer patient. Tumors of estrogen receptor positive human breast carcinoma cells (MCF-7) transfected with the human aromatase gene are grown in ovariectomized nude mice. These cells synthesize sufficient estrogen to stimulate tumor formation. We have utilized this model to investigate the effects on tumor growth of the antiestrogens, tamoxifen and ICI 182780, and the aromatase inhibitors, letrozole and anastrozole (arimidex), alone and in combination. Both the aromatase inhibitors and the antiestrogens were effective in suppressing tumor growth. However, letrozole was significantly more effective than the antiestrogens. When the aromatase inhibitors were combined with the antiestrogen, tamoxifen, tumor growth was suppressed to about the same extent as with the aromatase inhibitors alone. Furthermore, the results do not suggest any benefit from combining tamoxifen with the pure antiestrogen, ICI 182780. Thus sequential use of these agents is likely to be more advantageous to the patient in terms of longer duration of effective treatment.

Free access

W Yue, R J Santen, J P Wang, C J Hamilton, and L M Demers

In situ aromatization and enhanced uptake of estradiol from plasma are two potential mechanisms for maintenance of high concentrations of estradiol found in breast tumors of postmenopausal patients. To test the relative importance of these two mechanisms, a nude mouse model was established by inoculating aromatase (A+) and/or sham (A-) transfected MCF-7 cells into ovariectomized mice. Postmenopausal hormonal status was simulated by providing estradiol Silastic implants which clamped plasma estradiol levels at 5-20 pg/ml. We demonstrated that in situ aromatization rather than the uptake mechanism is the key determinant of tumor estradiol levels and tumor growth rate under conditions reflecting the postmenopausal state. The importance of intratumoral aromatase was also suggested by the findings that long-term estrogen deprivation increases sensitivity to estradiol and enhances aromatase activity in MCF-7 cells. The results of our in vivo and in vitro studies suggest that complete blockade of in situ aromatization in the breast would provide added benefit to postmenopausal breast cancer patients, especially those who relapse from antiestrogen therapy.

Free access

Amanda J M O’Donnell, Kenneth G Macleod, David J Burns, John F Smyth, and Simon P Langdon

Estrogens play a significant role in the development, growth, invasion and metastasis of ovarian tumors. The transcriptional program regulated by 17β-estradiol (E2) in human ovarian cancer cell lines was analyzed using cDNA microarrays containing 1200 cancer-related genes. Twenty-eight transcripts had at least a threefold change in expression in E2-treated PEO1 ovarian carcinoma cells compared with controls. These differences were confirmed by real-time quantitative PCR and shown to be dependent upon the expression of functional estrogen receptor-α (ERα). Consistent with this, these gene expression changes were blocked by the anti-estrogen tamoxifen. The use of ERα- and ERβ-specific ligands allowed molecular dissection of the E2 response and showed that ERα activation was responsible for the observed changes in gene expression, whereas ERβ played no significant role. Inhibition of de novo protein synthesis by cycloheximide was used to distinguish between primary and secondary target genes regulated by E2. Actinomycin D was used to show that changes in gene expression levels induced by E2 were a result of changes in transcription and not due to changes in mRNA stability. The results presented here demonstrate that estrogen-driven growth of epithelial ovarian carcinoma is mediated by activation of ERα-mediated, and not ERβ-mediated, transcription.

Free access

Oliver Zierau, Jacintha O’Sullivan, Colm Morrissey, Dana McDonald, Winfried Wünsche, Martin R Schneider, Martin P Tenniswood, and Günter Vollmer

Tamoxifen is the most widely prescribed anti-neoplastic drug for the treatment of both localized and metastatic breast cancer. It is also the prototype for a class of drugs that are referred to as selective estrogen receptor modifiers (SERMs), most of which have both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity in estrogen target tissues including the breast and endometrium. The underlying mechanisms of action of SERMs in the breast and endometrium that lead to profound differences in the tissue-specific effects of tamoxifen have not yet been elucidated.

We have compared the effects of tamoxifen and the pure anti-estrogen ICI 182,780 (Faslodex) in the RUCA-I hormone-responsive rat endometrial cell line in vitro and in vivo. In cell culture, RUCA-I cells responded to both estrogens and anti-estrogens, and the expression of clusterin and complement C3 mRNAs required the presence of estradiol and was repressed in the absence of estradiol or in the presence of the pure anti-estrogen ICI 182,780. Tamoxifen, on the other hand, induced both complement C3 and clusterin mRNA in the absence of estradiol and failed to repress their expression in the presence of estradiol. When grown as subcutaneous xenografts in syngeneic Da/Han rats for 5 weeks, the RUCA-I cells retained their sensitivity to estradiol, as demonstrated by significantly enhanced tumor growth in intact female rats compared with the growth in ovariectomized rats. But neither ICI 182,780 nor tamoxifen had a significant impact on tumor growth in cycling or ovariectomized animals. On the other hand, tamoxifen was potently estrogenic in metastatic lymph nodes, increasing the size of the lymph node tumors almost 6-fold over that seen in the intact cycling animals. In primary tumors, the expression of complement C3 mirrored that seen in vitro, although tamoxifen showed some agonist activity in ovariectomized animals. Tamoxifen also displayed marked agonist activity with respect to clusterin expression and enhanced clusterin mRNA levels and protein in both the primary tumors and lymph metastases in intact and ovariectomized animals.

Given the recent demonstration that over-expression of clusterin increases the metastatic potential of breast cancer cells, these data may provide a mechanistic explanation for the increased incidence of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal patients treated with tamoxifen.