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The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Aromatase is a particularly attractive drug target in the treatment of hormone-responsive breast cancer, and aromatase activity in breast cancer patients is greater in or near the tumor tissue compared with the normal breast tissue. Complex regulation of aromatase expression in human tissues involves alternative promoter sites that provide tissue-specific control. Previous studies in our laboratories suggested a strong association between aromatase (CYP19) gene expression and the expression of cyclooxygenase (COX) genes. Additionally, COX selective inhibitors can suppress CYP19 gene expression and decrease aromatase activity. Our current hypothesis is that pharmacological regulation of aromatase can act locally to decrease the biosynthesis of estrogen and may provide additional therapy options for patients with hormone-dependent breast cancer. Two pharmacological approaches are being developed, one approach utilizing small molecule drug design and the second approach involving mRNA silencing technology. The small molecule drug design approach focuses on the synthesis and biological evaluation of a novel series of sulfonanilide analogs derived from COX-2 selective inhibitors. Combinatorial chemistry approaches were used to generate diversely substituted novel sulfonanilides. The compounds suppress aromatase enzyme activity in SK-BR-3 breast cancer cells in a dose and time dependent manner, and structure activity analysis does not find a correlation between aromatase suppression and COX inhibition. Real-time PCR analysis demonstrates that the sulfonanilide analogs decrease aromatase gene transcription in breast cells. Furthermore, the sulfonanilide compounds selectively decrease aromatase gene expression in several breast cancer cells, without exhibiting cytotoxic or apoptotic effects at low micromole concentrations. A ligand-based pharmacophore model for selective aromatase modulation (SAM) by the novel sulfonanilides identified an aromatic ring, two hydrogen bond acceptors, and a hydrophobic function as four key chemical features. In the second approach, short interfering RNAs (siRNA) were designed targeting human aromatase mRNA. Treatment of breast cancer cells with siRNAs targeting aromatase (siAROMs) completely masked the aromatase enzyme activity and resulted in suppression of CYP19 mRNA. Thus, these results suggest that the novel sulfonanilides and the siRNAs targeting aromatase expression may be valuable tools for selective regulation of aromatase in breast cancer.


This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant R01 CA73698 (R.W.B.), the USAMRMC Breast Cancer Program Grant W81XWH-08-1-0521, and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Breast Cancer Research Fund.









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