Background: The majority of breast cancer cases are steroid dependent neoplasms, with hormonal manipulation of either CYP19/aromatase or oestrogen receptor alpha axis being the most common therapy. Alternate pathways of steroid actions are documented, but their interconnections and correlations to BC subtypes and clinical outcome could be further explored. Methods: We evaluated selected steroid receptors (Androgen Receptor, Oestrogen Receptor alpha and Beta, Glucocorticoid Receptor) and oestrogen pathways (steroid sulfatase (STS), 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (17βHSD2) and aromatase) in a cohort of 139 BC cases from Norway. Using logistic and cox regression analysis, we examined interactions between these and clinical outcomes such as distant metastasis, local relapse and survival. Results: Our principal finding is an impact of STS expression on the risk for distant metastasis (p<0.001) and local relapses (p <0.001), HER2 subtype (p<0.015), and survival (p<0.001). The suggestion of a beneficial effect of alternative oestrogen synthesis pathways was strengthened by inverted, but non-significant findings for 17βHSD2. Conclusions: Increased intratumoural metabolism of oestrogens through STS is associated with significantly lower incidence of relapse and/or distant metastasis and correspondingly improved prognosis. The enrichment of STS in the HER2 overexpressing subtype is intriguing, especially given the possible role of HER-2 over-expression in endocrine resistance.
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