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Steroids. 1979 Feb;33(2):205-22.

Aromatization of androgens by human breast cancer.


The metabolism of dehydroepiandrosterone and testosterone by human mammary tumor was investigated. Estrogen synthesis from dehydroepiandrosterone was observed in 9 of 10 estrogen-receptor-negative tumors and only in 2 of 8 receptor-positive tumors (p less than 0.025). Conversion of testosterone to estrogens was observed in 7 of 8 receptor-negative and 2 of 7 receptor-positive tumors. Tumors which are capable of transforming dehydroepiandrosterone to estrogens were also able to aromatize testosterone suggesting that the presence of the aromatase enzyme is inherent to certain tumor cells. No estrogen formation was detected by the mitochondrial-microsomal fraction of normal breast cells while fractions from both fat cell and tumor cell showed estrogen synthesis. Estrogen formation by tumor cell fraction ranged from 5 to 190 times that observed for fat cells. The physiological significance of these results in the neoplastic tissue and its relationship to hormone dependence are discussed.

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