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Free access

C Schaaf, B Shan, M Buchfelder, M Losa, J Kreutzer, W Rachinger, G K Stalla, T Schilling, E Arzt, M J Perone and U Renner

Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is the active ingredient of the spice plant Curcuma longa and has been shown to act anti-tumorigenic in different types of tumours. Therefore, we have studied its effect in pituitary tumour cell lines and adenomas. Proliferation of lactosomatotroph GH3 and somatotroph MtT/S rat pituitary cells as well as of corticotroph AtT20 mouse pituitary cells was inhibited by curcumin in monolayer cell culture and in colony formation assay in soft agar. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis demonstrated curcumin-induced cell cycle arrest at G2/M. Analysis of cell cycle proteins by immunoblotting showed reduction in cyclin D1, cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and no change in p27kip. FACS analysis with Annexin V-FITC/7-aminoactinomycin D staining demonstrated curcumin-induced early apoptosis after 3, 6, 12 and 24 h treatment and nearly no necrosis. Induction of DNA fragmentation, reduction of Bcl-2 and enhancement of cleaved caspase-3 further confirmed induction of apoptosis by curcumin. Growth of GH3 tumours in athymic nude mice was suppressed by curcumin in vivo. In endocrine pituitary tumour cell lines, GH, ACTH and prolactin production were inhibited by curcumin. Studies in 25 human pituitary adenoma cell cultures have confirmed the anti-tumorigenic and hormone-suppressive effects of curcumin. Altogether, the results described in this report suggest this natural compound as a good candidate for therapeutic use on pituitary tumours.

Free access

D Dworakowska, E Wlodek, C A Leontiou, S Igreja, M Cakir, M Teng, N Prodromou, M I Góth, S Grozinsky-Glasberg, M Gueorguiev, B Kola, M Korbonits and A B Grossman

Raf/MEK/ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) cascades are key signalling pathways interacting with each other to regulate cell growth and tumourigenesis. We have previously shown B-Raf and Akt overexpression and/or overactivation in pituitary adenomas. The aim of this study is to assess the expression of their downstream components (MEK1/2, ERK1/2, mTOR, TSC2, p70S6K) and effectors (c-MYC and CYCLIN D1). We studied tissue from 16 non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs), six GH-omas, six prolactinomas and six ACTH-omas, all collected at transsphenoidal surgery; 16 normal autopsy pituitaries were used as controls. The expression of phospho and total protein was assessed with western immunoblotting, and the mRNA expression with quantitative RT-PCR. The expression of pSer217/221 MEK1/2 and pThr183 ERK1/2 (but not total MEK1/2 or ERK1/2) was significantly higher in all tumour subtypes in comparison to normal pituitaries. There was no difference in the expression of phosphorylated/total mTOR, TSC2 or p70S6K between pituitary adenomas and controls. Neither c-MYC phosphorylation at Ser 62 nor total c-MYC was changed in the tumours. However, c-MYC phosphorylation at Thr58/Ser62 (a response target for Akt) was decreased in all tumour types. CYCLIN D1 expression was higher only in NFPAs. The mRNA expression of MEK1, MEK2, ERK1, ERK2, c-MYC and CCND1 was similar in all groups. Our data indicate that in pituitary adenomas both the Raf/MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathways are upregulated in their initial cascade, implicating a pro-proliferative signal derangement upstream to their point of convergence. However, we speculate that other processes, such as senescence, attenuate the changes downstream in these benign tumours.

Free access

R J Santen, W Yue, F Naftolin, G Mor and L Berstein

Substantial evidence supports the concept that estrogens cause breast cancer in animals and in women but the precise mechanism is unknown. The most commonly held theory is that estrogens stimulate proliferation of breast cells and thus statistically increase the chances for genetic mutations which could result in cancer. Another theory is that estrogen metabolism generates oxygen-free radicals and quinones which produce both stable and unstable DNA adducts. Both result in genetic mutations which accumulate and could ultimately cause cancer. A major criticism of the latter hypothesis is that breast tissue contains insufficient concentrations of estrogen for accumulation of genotoxic metabolites. Our hypothesis is that breast tissue estrogen levels, as a result of in situ synthesis, are much higher than previously thought. We and others have shown that estrogen can be made in the breast itself through conversion of androgens to estrogens, a process catalyzed by the enzyme aromatase. The levels of estrogen in the breast increase when aromatase is overexpressed. With sufficient amounts of aromatase in breast tissue, enough estradiol as substrate should be available to allow formation of substantial amounts of genotoxic metabolites. We postulate that aromatase overexpression may in this way cause breast cancer. As evidence supporting this concept, four animal models of aromatase overexpression and either breast cancer or premalignant lesions have been described. We have provided evidence that normal breast tissue can make estrogen and that certain stimulatory compounds can increase aromatase activity in the breast by nearly 10,000-fold. If our concepts are correct, it might be possible to prevent breast cancer by blocking the aromatase enzyme. Drugs are currently available to inhibit aromatase nearly completely without causing significant side-effects. Aromatase inhibitors might be more effective than antiestrogens in preventing breast cancer because of their dual role to block both initiation and promotion of breast cancer. To inhibit the initiation process, these inhibitors would reduce levels of the genotoxic metabolites of estradiol by lowering estradiol concentrations in tissue. At the same time, aromatase inhibitors would inhibit the process of tumor promotion by lowering tissue levels of estradiol and thus blocking cell proliferation. These concepts provide a strong rationale for studies of aromatase inhibitors to prevent breast cancer.

Free access

Helena Schock, Heljä-Marja Surcel, Anne Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, Kjell Grankvist, Hans-Åke Lakso, Renée Turzanski Fortner, Rudolf Kaaks, Eero Pukkala, Matti Lehtinen, Paolo Toniolo and Eva Lundin

Well-established associations between reproductive characteristics and epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) support an involvement of sex steroid hormones in the etiology of EOC. Limited previous studies have evaluated circulating androgens and the risk of EOC, and estrogens and progesterone have been investigated in only one of the previous studies. Furthermore, there is little data on potential heterogeneity in the association between circulating hormones and EOC by histological subgroup. Therefore, we conducted a nested case–control study within the Finnish Maternity Cohort and the Northern Sweden Maternity Cohort to investigate the associations between circulating pre-diagnostic sex steroid concentrations and the histological subtypes of EOC. We identified 1052 EOC cases among cohort members diagnosed after recruitment (1975–2008) and before March 2011. Up to three controls were individually matched to each case (n=2694). Testosterone, androstenedione, 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP), progesterone, estradiol (E2), and sex hormone-binding globulin levels were measured in serum samples collected during the last pregnancy before EOC diagnosis. We used conditional logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% CIs. Associations between hormones and EOC differed with respect to tumor histology and invasiveness. Sex steroid concentrations were not associated with invasive serous tumors; however, doubling of testosterone and 17-OHP concentration was associated with approximately 40% increased risk of borderline serous tumors. A doubling of androgen concentrations was associated with a 50% increased risk of mucinous tumors. The risk of endometrioid tumors increased with higher E2 concentrations (OR: 1.89 (1.20–2.98)). This large prospective study in pregnant women supports a role of sex steroid hormones in the etiology of EOC arising in the ovaries.

Free access

S E Bulun, K Zeitoun, K Takayama, L Noble, D Michael, E Simpson, A Johns, M Putman and H Sasano

Estrogen is the most important known factor that stimulates the growth of endometriosis. Estrogen delivery to endometriotic implants was classically viewed to be only via the circulating blood in an endocrine fashion. We recently uncovered an autocrine positive feedback mechanism, which favored the continuous production of estrogen and prostaglandin (PG)E2 in the endometriotic stromal cells. The enzyme, aromatase, is aberrantly expressed in endometriotic stromal cells and catalyzes the conversion of C19 steroids to estrogens, which then stimulate cyclooxygenase-2 to increase the levels of PGE2. PGE2, in turn, is a potent inducer of aromatase activity in endometriotic stromal cells. Aromatase is not expressed in the eutopic endometrium. Aromatase expression in endometriosis and its inhibition in eutopic endometrium are controlled by the competitive binding of a stimulatory transcription factor, steroidogenic factor-1, and an inhibitory factor, chicken ovalbumin upstream promoter-transcription factor to a regulatory element in the aromatase P450 gene promoter. In addition, we find that endometriotic tissue is deficient in 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2, which is normally expressed in eutopic endometrial glandular cells and inactivates estradiol-17beta to estrone. This deficiency is another aberration that favors higher levels of estradiol-17beta in endometriotic tissues in comparison with the eutopic endometrium. The clinical relevance of local aromatase expression in endometriosis was exemplified by the successful treatment of an unusually aggressive form of recurrent endometriosis in a postmenopausal woman using an aromatase inhibitor.

Free access

Giorgio Secreto, Alessandro Girombelli and Vittorio Krogh

The aim of this review is to highlight the pivotal role of androgen excess in the development of breast cancer. Available evidence suggests that testosterone controls breast epithelial growth through a balanced interaction between its two active metabolites: cell proliferation is promoted by estradiol while it is inhibited by dihydrotestosterone. A chronic overproduction of testosterone (e.g. ovarian stromal hyperplasia) results in an increased estrogen production and cell proliferation that are no longer counterbalanced by dihydrotestosterone. This shift in the androgen/estrogen balance partakes in the genesis of ER-positive tumors. The mammary gland is a modified apocrine gland, a fact rarely considered in breast carcinogenesis. When stimulated by androgens, apocrine cells synthesize epidermal growth factor (EGF) that triggers the ErbB family receptors. These include the EGF receptor and the human epithelial growth factor 2, both well known for stimulating cellular proliferation. As a result, an excessive production of androgens is capable of directly stimulating growth in apocrine and apocrine-like tumors, a subset of ER-negative/AR-positive tumors. The key role of androgen excess in the genesis of different subtypes of breast cancer has significant clinical implications for both treatment and prevention. Our belief stems from a thorough analysis of the literature, where an abundance of evidence is present to justify a clinical trial that would investigate the effectiveness of treating the underlying excessive androgen production.

Free access

Isabel Coutinho, Tanya K Day, Wayne D Tilley and Luke A Selth

The androgen receptor (AR) signaling axis drives all stages of prostate cancer, including the lethal, drug-resistant form of the disease termed castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), which arises after failure of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). Persistent AR activity in spite of ADT and the second-generation AR-targeting agents enzalutamide and abiraterone is achieved in many cases by direct alterations to the AR signaling axis. Herein, we provide a detailed description of how such alterations contribute to the development and progression of CRPC. Aspects of this broad and ever-evolving field specifically addressed in this review include: the etiology and significance of increased AR expression; the frequency and role of gain-of-function mutations in the AR gene; the function of constitutively active, truncated forms of the AR termed AR variants and the clinical relevance of alterations to the activity and expression of AR coregulators. Additionally, we examine the novel therapeutic strategies to inhibit these classes of therapy resistance mechanisms, with an emphasis on emerging agents that act in a manner distinct from the current ligand-centric approaches. Throughout, we discuss how the central role of AR in prostate cancer and the constant evolution of the AR signaling axis during disease progression represent archetypes of two key concepts in oncology, oncogene addiction and therapy-mediated selection pressure.

Free access

Adel T Aref, Andrew D Vincent, Michael E O’Callaghan, Sean A Martin, Peter D Sutherland, Andrew J Hoy, Lisa M Butler and Gary A Wittert

Obese men have lower serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) than comparably aged lean men, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of obesity on PSA and the potential contributing mechanisms. A cohort of 1195 men aged 35 years and over at recruitment, with demographic, anthropometric (BMI, waist circumference (WC)) and serum hormone (serum testosterone, estradiol (E2)) PSA and hematology assessments obtained over two waves was assessed. Men with a history of prostate cancer or missing PSA were excluded, leaving 970 men for the final analysis. Mixed-effects regressions and mediation analyses adjusting for hormonal and volumetric factors explore the potential mechanisms relating obesity to PSA. After adjusting for age, PSA levels were lower in men with greater WC (P = 0.001). In a multivariable model including WC, age, E2/testosterone and PlasV as predictors, no statistically significant associations were observed between with PSA and either WC (P = 0.36) or PlasV (P = 0.49), while strong associations were observed with both E2/testosterone (P < 0.001) and age (P < 0.001). In the mediation analyses with PlasV as the mediator, the average causal mediation effect (ACME) explained roughly 20% of the total effect of WC on PSA (P = 0.31), while when E2/testosterone is a mediator, the ACME explained roughly 50% of the effect (P < 0.001). Our findings indicate that lower PSA levels in obese men, as compared to normal weight men, can be explained both by hormonal changes (elevated E2/testosterone ratio) and hemodilution. Hormonal factors therefore represent a substantial but underappreciated mediating pathway.

Free access

Kiyoshi Ito, Yasuhiro Miki, Takashi Suzuki, Keely May McNamara and Hironobu Sasano

In situ estrogen biosynthesis is considered to play pivotal roles in the development and progression of human endometrial carcinoma. However, the biological roles of androgen have remained virtually unknown. Various epidemiological studies have revealed that elevated serum androgen levels are generally associated with an increased risk of developing endometrial carcinoma; however, studies directly examining androgens in carcinoma tissues are relatively rare and reviews summarizing this information are scarce. Therefore, we summarized recent studies on androgens in endometrial carcinoma, especially focusing androgen actions and in situ androgen biosynthesis. Among the enzymes required for local biosynthesis of androgen, 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 5 (conversion from androstenedione to testosterone) and 5α-reductase (reduction of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT)) are the principal enzymes involved in the formation of biologically most potent androgen, DHT. Both enzymes and androgen receptor were expressed in endometrial carcinoma tissues, and in situ production of DHT has been reported to exist in endometrial carcinoma tissues. However, testosterone is not only a precursor of DHT production, but also a precursor of estradiol synthesis, as a substrate of the aromatase enzyme. Therefore, aromatase could be another key enzyme serving as a negative regulator for in situ production of DHT by reducing amounts of the precursor. In an in vitro study, DHT was reported to exert antiproliferative effects on endometrial carcinoma cells. Intracrine mechanisms of androgens, the downstream signals of AR, which are directly related to anticancer progression, and the clinical significance of DHT-AR pathway in the patients with endometrial carcinoma have, however, not been fully elucidated.

Restricted access

Hiroki Ide, Taichi Mizushima, Guiyang Jiang, Takuro Goto, Yujiro Nagata, Yuki Teramoto, Satoshi Inoue, Yi Li, Eiji Kashiwagi, Alexander S Baras, George J Netto, Takashi Kawahara and Hiroshi Miyamoto

Androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptor-β (ERβ) have been implicated in urothelial tumor outgrowth as promoters, while underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Our transcription factor profiling previously performed identified FOXO1 as a potential downstream target of AR in bladder cancer cells. We here investigated the functional role of FOXO1 in the development and progression of urothelial cancer in relation to AR and ERβ signals. In non-neoplastic urothelial SVHUC cells or bladder cancer lines, AR/ERβ expression or dihydrotestosterone/estradiol treatment reduced the expression levels of FOXO1 gene and induced those of a phosphorylated inactive form of FOXO1 (p-FOXO1). In chemical carcinogen-induced models, FOXO1 knockdown via shRNA or inhibitor treatment resulted in considerable induction of the neoplastic transformation of urothelial cells or bladder cancer development in mice. Similarly, FOXO1 inhibition considerably induced the viability, migration, and invasion of bladder cancer cells. Importantly, in FOXO1 knockdown sublines, an anti-androgen hydroxyflutamide or an anti-estrogen tamoxifen did not significantly inhibit the neoplastic transformation of urothelial cells, while dihydrotestosterone or estradiol did not significantly promote the proliferation or migration of urothelial cancer cells. In addition, immunohistochemistry in surgical specimens showed that FOXO1 and p-FOXO1 expression was down-regulated and up-regulated, respectively, in bladder tumor tissues, which was further associated with worse patient outcomes. AR or ERβ activation is thus found to correlate with inactivation of FOXO1 which appears to be their key downstream effector. Moreover, FOXO1, as a tumor suppressor, is likely inactivated in bladder cancer, which contributes in turn to inducing urothelial carcinogenesis and cancer growth.