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Enzyme found that fuels potentially deadly breast cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Enzyme found that drives deadly breast cancer.

Research published in the journal Molecular Endocrinology, shows an enzyme drives a potent form of estrogen that fuels breast cancer.

The enzyme, 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 7 enzyme (HSD17B7), according to the study authors, “converts the weak estrogen, estrone, to the highly potent estradiol” that drives breast cancer.

Geula Gibori, UIC professor of physiology and biophysics, at University of Chicago, Illinois, said "Breast cancer tumors with this enzyme are likely to be a much more aggressive and potentially deadly type of cancer. Identifying this enzyme and how its expression is turned on gives medical researchers potential targets for disrupting the lethal production of estradiol in breast cancers."

Enzyme promotes vicious cycle of hormone production, driving breast cancer

The study authors note when the enzyme acts to convert estrone to estrogen, a vicious cycle occurs that causes the potent form of the hormone to be produced “over and over again.”

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Estradiol turns on a gene that produces the enzyme, creating over-production of the hormone to make breast cancer aggressive and deadly.

The researchers first noted the enzyme that was previously unknown when they examined ovarian tissue.

Under the direction of Geula Gibori, UIC professor of physiology and biophysics, the scientists cloned the protein’s gene. Laboratory findings established the HSD17B7 enzyme converts the hormone estrone to the potent hormone estradiol that promotes spread of aggressive and potentially deadly breast cancer.

Journal of Molecular Endocrinology: doi: 10.1210/me.2010-0261
“The Stimulation of HSD17B7 Expression by Estradiol Provides a Powerful Feed-Forward Mechanism for Estradiol Biosynthesis in Breast Cancer Cells”
Constance Albarracin, Y. Sangeeta Devi, Kristin Luther, Julia Halperin, Jamie Le, Jifang Mao, Rachel W. Duan, Jonna Frasor and Geula Gibori

Image credit: Bing