Review of estrone sulfatase and its inhibitors: an important new target against hormone dependent breast cancer

Ahmed, S., Owen, C.P., James, K., Sampson, L. and Patel, C.K. (2002) Review of estrone sulfatase and its inhibitors: an important new target against hormone dependent breast cancer. Current medicinal chemistry, 9(2), pp. 263-273. ISSN (print) 0929-8673


A high proportion (approximately 40%) of breast cancers are hormone dependent. The female hormones estradiol and androstenediol are believed to play a key role in the initiation and promotion of this disease. In the fight against hormone dependent breast cancers, extensive research has been undertaken to produce compounds which are potent inhibitors against the cytochrome P-450 enzyme aromatase (AR), which converts the C19 androgens to the C18 estrogens. However, the administration of AR inhibitors alone has failed to produce the expected decrease in plasma levels of estrone. The major impetus to the development of steroid sulfatase inhibitors has therefore been the realisation that in order to improve therapeutic response for women with hormone-dependent breast cancer, not only must the AR enzyme be inhibited, but also the synthesis of estrogens via alternative routes. The steroid sulfatase enzyme regulates the formation of estrone (which can subsequently be converted to the potent estrogen estradiol) from estrone sulfate, a steroid conjugate present in high concentrations in tissue and blood in women with breast cancer. The sulfatase enzyme system also controls the formation of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) from the DHEA-sulfate. This is important since DHEA can be converted to 5-androstene-3 beta,17 beta-diol, which possesses estrogenic properties capable of stimulating the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Considerable progress has been made in recent years in the development of a number of potent steroid/estrone sulfatase inhibitors, as such both steroidal and non-steroidal compounds have been considered and a number of highly potent inhibitors have been produced and evaluated against what is now considered a crucial enzyme in the fight against hormone dependent breast cancer. The review therefore considers the work that has been undertaken to date, as well as possible future development with respect to dual inhibitors of both estrone sulfatase and AR.

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