Third generation aromatase inhibitors (AI) have shown good clinical efficacy in comparison to the anti-estrogen tamoxifen. The steroidal AI, exemestane (EXE) has previously been shown to act as an androgen, but this report demonstrates the estrogen-like activity of EXE. Based on genome-wide microarray analysis, high correlation was seen between EXE-Only (EXE O, hormone- free) and hormone-containing AI-resistant lines. In addition, the top regulated genes in the EXE O lines were mostly estrogen-responsive genes. This estrogen-like activity of EXE was further validated using estrogen receptor (ER) activity assays, where in comparison to 17β-estradiol (E2), EXE was able to induce ER activity, though at a higher concentration. Also, this EXE-mediated ER activity was blocked by the ER antagonist ICI as well as the ERα-specific antagonist methyl-piperidino-pyrazole (MPP). Similarly, EXE was able to induce proliferation of breast cancer cell lines, MCF-7 and MCF-7aro, as well as activate transcription of known estrogen-responsive genes, i.e., PGR, pS2 and AREG. These results suggest that EXE does have weak estrogen-like activity.
- Aromatase inhibitors
- Estrogen receptor