, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 1041-1046
Date: 04 Apr 2007

A New Hormonal Therapy for Estrogen Receptor–Negative Breast Cancer

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We postulate that the androgen dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) may represent an innovative hormonal treatment for estrogen (ER), progesterone (PR) receptor–negative, but androgen receptor (AR)–positive breast cancers by inhibiting breast cancer cell growth through AR stimulation.


Three ER,PR–negative breast cancer cell lines (HCC 1137, 1954, and 38), were treated with DHEAS. DHEAS-induced growth was measured by a methylthiotetrazole (MTT) proliferation assay and apoptosis by TUNEL fluorescence. Androgen receptor gene expression levels were determined using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (q-RT-PCR).


HCC cell lines 1954 and 1937 were positive for AR expression; HCC 38 was weakly positive. MTT analysis showed DHEAS-induced decreases in cell proliferation of 47% in HCC 1937, 27% in HCC 1954, and 0.4% in HCC 38. Ten days of culturing HCC 1954 cells after the removal of DHEAS resulted in a 3.5-fold increase in growth. Continuous treatment for the same duration induced a 2.8-fold decrease in growth. Parallel experiments showed no significant changes in HCC 38 cultures. TUNEL assays showed DHEAS-induced apoptosis fold increases of 2.8 in HCC 1937, 1.9 in HCC 1954, and no significant difference in HCC 38 cultures. Q-RT-PCR of HCC 1954 cells showed a 6-fold DHEAS-induced decrease in AR gene expression at 4 h. Co-treatment with Casodex nullified this effect.


DHEAS inhibited growth of ER,PR–negative, AR–positive breast cancer cells. DHEAS was cytotoxic to these breast cancer cells via the apoptosis pathway. DHEAS may be an effective treatment for a population previously excluded from hormone therapy.