The relationship of urinary and plasma androgens to steroid receptors and menopausal status in breast cancer patients and their influence on survial
Estradiol-17β is known to be involved in both the etiology and maintenance of growth of breast cancer. However, blood levels of the hormone do not reflect those found within the cells due to a number of transformations catalysed by enzymes which may be under metabolite and/or hormonal regulation. Recognition of the importance of the hormone microenvironment within the cell focuses attention on these enzymes and provides the subject for this review. An interplay between the sex hormones, estrogen and progestin, can control estradiol-17β concentrations in breast cancer cells at the level of key transforming enzymes. In addition, some enzymes catalyse production of biologically inert derivatives which are rapidly eliminated from the cell. Other enzymes catalyse the formation of derivatives which are exclusively intracellular and can act as reserve forms of the hormone. Yet others lead to estradiol-17β metabolites which are cytotoxic. An improved understanding of the enzymes and the role of the related metabolites can provide the opportunity for the development of new therapeutic agents.