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Med Res Rev. 2002 May;22(3):282-304.

Nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors: recent advances.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Bologna, Via Belmeloro 6, I-40126 Bologna, Italy.


Aromatase is the cytochrome P450 enzyme responsible for the last step of estrogen biosynthesis, and aromatase inhibitors constitute an important class of drugs in clinical use for the treatment of breast cancer. Nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors (NSAIs) are competitive inhibitors of aromatase, which bind to the enzyme active site by coordinating the iron atom present in the heme group of the P450 protein. Presently, third generation NSAIs are in use, and research efforts are being carried out both to identify new molecules of therapeutic interest and to clarify the mechanism of action. In this article, we present a survey of the compounds that have been recently reported as NSAIs, to provide a broad view on the general structure-activity relationships of the class. Moreover, starting from the current knowledge of the mechanistic aspects of aromatase action and from recent theoretical work on the molecular modeling of both enzyme and inhibitors, we try to indicate a way to integrate these different studies in view of a more general understanding of the aromeatase-inhibitor system. Finally, some aspects regarding the possible future development of the field are considered briefly.

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