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Curr Cancer Drug Targets. 2008 Dec;8(8):691-702.

Melatonin as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Cantabria, Santander, Spain.


Melatonin exerts oncostatic effects on different kinds of tumors, especially on hormone-dependent breast cancer. The general conclusion is that melatonin, in vivo, reduces the incidence and growth of chemically-induced mammary tumors in rodents, and, in vitro, inhibits the proliferation and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells. Both studies support the hypothesis that melatonin inhibits the growth of breast cancer by interacting with estrogen-signaling pathways through three different mechanisms: (a) the indirect neuroendocrine mechanism which includes the melatonin down-regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-reproductive axis and the consequent reduction of circulating levels of gonadal estrogens, (b) direct melatonin actions at tumor cell level by interacting with the activation of the estrogen receptor, thus behaving as a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), and (c) the regulation of the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of estrogens in peripheral tissues, thus behaving as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator (SEEM). As melatonin reduces the activity and expression of aromatase, sulfatase and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and increases the activity and expression of estrogen sulfotransferase, it may protect mammary tissue from excessive estrogenic effects. Thus, a single molecule has both SERM and SEEM properties, one of the main objectives desired for the breast antitumoral drugs. Since the inhibition of enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of estrogens is currently one of the first therapeutic strategies used against the growth of breast cancer, melatonin modulation of different enzymes involved in the synthesis of steroid hormones makes, collectively, this indolamine an interesting anticancer drug in the prevention and treatment of estrogen-dependent mammary tumors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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