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HWI scientist first in world to unravel structure of key breast cancer target enzyme
Date:1/7/2009

f cancer death in women, after lung cancer. Many people also may be aware that the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8 and the chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. But many may not be aware that 75-80 percent of all breast cancer tumors are estrogen-fed. Estrogen is a female sex hormone and androgens are the male sex hormones. Regardless of gender, everyone has some percentage of both estrogens and androgens in their bodies. Each of the enzymes discussed above can individually promote the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancers, but knowing all three structures opens the door to customized, comprehensive medical treatment.

Aromatase is the only enzyme in the vertebrate world that makes estrogens from androgens. All estrogens in the human body are made by aromatase. Drugs, such as Tamoxifen, that prevent aromatase from making estrogens constitute one of the foremost therapies for estrogen-dependent breast cancer. These drugs do not discriminate in what they target in the body, which results in significant side effects. Aromatase inhibitor drugs (AIs) have only been on the market a few years and are targeted to inhibit aromatase specifically. But because the structure was not known, nor the mechanism of androgen to estrogen conversion, the AIs currently in use have been developed using trial and error methods resulting in greater vulnerability to contraindications and side effects.

"Now that the Ghosh Lab has unraveled the molecular details of aromatase, drugs can be designed to specifically target aromoatase," Dr. Walter A. Pangborn, Executive Vice President at HWI, said. "This means that results from this research will form the basis for novel breast cancer drugs that are highly specific for aromatase but cause minimal side effects."

What Happens Next?

Ghosh now will work to test his hypothesis of the chemical mechanism involved in the conversion of an
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Contact: Tara A. Ellis
tellis@hwi.buffalo.edu
716-898-8596
Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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