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Synthesis of oestrogens within breast tissues makes an important contribution to the high concentrations of oestradiol which are found in breast tumours. The activities of the enzymes involved in oestrogen synthesis, i.e. the aromatase, oestradiol dehydrogenase (E2DH) and oestrone sulphatase (E1-STS), can be stimulated by several growth factors and cytokines. As it is possible that some of these factors may be derived from cells of the immune system (macrophages and lymphocytes), the effects of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and interleukin-2 (IL-2), which are produced by these cells, on E2DH activity was examined in MCF-7 cells. Treatment of these cells with bFGF resulted in a dose-dependent increase in E2DH reductive activity whereas IL-2 was inactive at the concentration tested. To obtain further evidence that factors produced by macrophages and lymphocytes can modulate the activities of enzymes involved in oestrogen synthesis, conditioned medium was collected from these cells and found to stimulate both E1-STS and E2DH activities. In addition to understanding the control of oestrogen synthesis in breast tumours an inhibitor to block the synthesis of oestrone via the oestrone sulphatase pathway was developed. Oestrone-3-O-sulphamate (EMATE) is a potent, irreversible, inhibitor of E1-STS. A single dose of EMATE (10 mg/kg) inhibited tissue E1-STS activity in rats by more than 95% for up to 7 days, indicating that this compound may have considerable therapeutic potential for the treatment of breast cancer. Evidence is also reviewed that another steroid sulphatase, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate sulphatase, may have a crucial role in regulating cytokine production and that this may indirectly control tumour oestrogen synthesis.


Journal article


J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol

Publication Date





413 - 420


Breast Neoplasms, Cytokines, Dehydroepiandrosterone, Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Estradiol Dehydrogenases, Estrogens, Estrone, Fibroblast Growth Factor 2, Growth Substances, Humans, In Vitro Techniques, Insulin-Like Growth Factor I, Interleukin-2, Lymphocytes, Macrophages, Sulfatases, Transforming Growth Factor alpha, Tumor Cells, Cultured