Aromatase inhibitor development for treatment of breast cancer

Shigeru Masamura, Herman Adlercreutz, Harold Harvey, Allan Lipton, Laurence Demers, Richard J. Santen, Steven J. Santner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Inhibition of estrogen production provides effective therapy for patients with hormone-dependent breast cancer. The source of estrogens in premenopausal women is predominantly the ovary, but after the menopause, estradiol is synthesized in peripheral tissues through the aromatization of androgens to estrogens. Uptake from plasma is the primary mechanism for maintenance of estradiol concentrations in breast cancer tissue in premenopausal women, whereas several steps may be operant in postmenopausal women. These include enzymatic synthesis of estradiol via sulfatase, aromatase, and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase in the tumor itself. Aromatization of androgens secreted by the adrenal to estrogens in peripheral tissues and transport to the tumor via circulation in the plasma provides another means of maintaining breast tumor estradiol levels in postmenopausal women. These various sources contribute to the high tissue estrogen levels measured in breast tumor tissue. To effectively suppress tissue concentrations of estrogens and circulating estradiol in postmenopausal patients, various aromatase inhibitors have been developed recently. These include steroidal inhibitors such as 4-hydroxy-androstenedione as well as non-steroidal compounds with imidazole and triazole structures. The most potent of these, CGS 20267, is reported to suppress levels of active estrogens (i.e., estrone, estrone sulfatase, and estradiol) by more than 95%. This compound can suppress both serum and 24-hrurine estrogens to a greater extent than produced by the second generation inhibitor, CGS 16949A. CGS 20267 is highly specific since it does not affect cortisol and aldosterone serum levels during ACTH stimulation tests nor sodium and potassium balance in 24-hr urine samples. These data suggest that CGS 20267 can be expected to bring improved response rates in the treatment of metastatic hormone-dependent breast cancer without substantial side effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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