Unlike other types of cancer, tumors of the breast are greatly influenced by steroid hormones. The effect of estrogen and progesterone depends on the presence of their specific receptors and these constitute important parameters in determining the aggressiveness of the tumor, the feasibility of certain therapies and the prediction of relapse. The molecular mechanisms of steroid hormone action have not been fully elucidated but recent findings implicate the nitric oxide (NO) pathway in some of these effects. Both hormones can regulate the nitric oxide synthases (NOS) and, in turn, the NO produced has profound consequences on tumor cell homeostasis. On one hand, estrogen increases the activity of endothelial NOS (eNOS or NOSIII), while progesterone activates inducible NOS (iNOS or NOSII) expression. The data presented suggest that the low levels of NO produced by NOSIII mediate the proliferative effect of estrogen. On the other hand, the increase in apoptosis in response to progesterone could implicate the high levels of NO produced by induction of NOSII expression. Understanding of the mechanisms and interactions of steroid hormones with the NO pathway could lead to the development of new approaches and strategies for the effective treatment of breast cancer.
- Breast Neoplasms/drug therapy
- Nitric Oxide/metabolism
- Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II/antagonists & inhibitors
- Receptors, Estrogen/metabolism
- Receptors, Progesterone/metabolism