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J Drug Deliv. 2013;2013:957605. doi: 10.1155/2013/957605. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

The sulfatase pathway for estrogen formation: targets for the treatment and diagnosis of hormone-associated tumors.

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1
Department of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Medical University of Vienna, Waehringer Guertel 18-20, 1090 Vienna, Austria.

Abstract

The extragonadal synthesis of biological active steroid hormones from their inactive precursors in target tissues is named "intracrinology." Of particular importance for the progression of estrogen-dependent cancers is the in situ formation of the biological most active estrogen, 17beta-estradiol (E2). In cancer cells, conversion of inactive steroid hormone precursors to E2 is accomplished from inactive, sulfated estrogens in the "sulfatase pathway" and from androgens in the "aromatase pathway." Here, we provide an overview about expression and function of enzymes of the "sulfatase pathway," particularly steroid sulfatase (STS) that activates estrogens and estrogen sulfotransferase (SULT1E1) that converts active estrone (E1) and other estrogens to their inactive sulfates. High expression of STS and low expression of SULT1E1 will increase levels of active estrogens in malignant tumor cells leading to the stimulation of cell proliferation and cancer progression. Therefore, blocking the "sulfatase pathway" by STS inhibitors may offer an attractive strategy to reduce levels of active estrogens. STS inhibitors either applied in combination with aromatase inhibitors or as novel, dual aromatase-steroid sulfatase inhibiting drugs are currently under investigation. Furthermore, STS inhibitors are also suitable as enzyme-based cancer imaging agents applied in the biomedical imaging technique positron emission tomography (PET) for cancer diagnosis.

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