Estradiol stimulates the growth of breast tumor cells in both pre- and post menopausal women. Following the menopause, the levels of estradiol in breast tumor tissues are similar to those from tumors obtained prior to cessation of ovarian function, even though plasma estrogen levels are 10-50 fold lower in post- than in premenopausal women. These observations suggested the possibility of enhanced estradiol uptake from plasma or in situ synthesis in post-menopausal women. We systematically studied these possibilities in a series of model systems. Initially we demonstrated a very high affinity estradiol binding site in tissues from castrated rats. Enhanced uptake occurred under conditions of low plasma estrogen levels when compared to animals with higher estradiol levels. In situ synthesis also occurred both through the sulfatase and aromatase pathways. In further studies, we compared uptake from plasma with in situ synthesis via aromatase in a nude mouse model. Under the conditions utilized, in situ synthesis resulted in much higher tissue estradiol levels and tumor growth rates than did uptake from plasma. During these studies we demonstrated that tumors deprived of estradiol developed mechanisms rendering them more sensitive to estrogen. This involved the ability of cells to adapt to estradiol deprivation to allow them to be responsive to four log lower amounts of estrogen than when studied under wild type conditions. In addition, cells adapted by increasing their level of aromatase and thus developing the capability to become more sensitive to estrogen precursors. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that breast cancer tissue is highly plastic and can adapt to conditions of estrogen deprivation via a variety of mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research