Estrogen and androgen-converting enzymes 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and their involvement in cancer: with a special focus on 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1, 2, and breast cancer

Erik Hilborn _, Olle Stål and Agneta Jansson

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:30552-30562. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.15547

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Erik Hilborn1, Olle Stål1 and Agneta Jansson1

1 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine and Department of Oncology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

Correspondence to:

Erik Hilborn, email:

Keywords: breast cancer, estrogens, androgens, HSD17B1, HSD17B2

Received: September 23, 2016 Accepted: February 12, 2017 Published: February 20, 2017


Sex steroid hormones such as estrogens and androgens are involved in the development and differentiation of the breast tissue. The activity and concentration of sex steroids is determined by the availability from the circulation, and on local conversion. This conversion is primarily mediated by aromatase, steroid sulfatase, and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases. In postmenopausal women, this is the primary source of estrogens in the breast. Up to 70-80% of all breast cancers express the estrogen receptor-α, responsible for promoting the growth of the tissue. Further, 60-80% express the androgen receptor, which has been shown to have tissue protective effects in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, and a more ambiguous response in estrogen receptor negative breast cancers. In this review, we summarize the function and clinical relevance in cancer for 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases 1, which facilitates the reduction of estrone to estradiol, dehydroepiandrosterone to androstendiol and dihydrotestosterone to 3α- and 3β-diol as well as 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases 2 which mediates the oxidation of estradiol to estrone, testosterone to androstenedione and androstendiol to dehydroepiandrosterone. The expression of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases 1 and 2 alone and in combination has been shown to predict patient outcome, and inhibition of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases 1 has been proposed to be a prime candidate for inhibition in patients who develop aromatase inhibitor resistance or in combination with aromatase inhibitors as a first line treatment. Here we review the status of inhibitors against 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases 1. In addition, we review the involvement of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases 4, 5, 7, and 14 in breast cancer.

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