Advances in Cancer Drug Targets

Volume: 1

Indexed in: EBSCO, Scopus

Advances in Cancer Drug Targets is an e-book series that brings together recent expert reviews published on the subject with a focus on strategies for synthesizing and isolating organic compounds and ...
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Melatonin and Breast Cancer: Selective Estrogen Enzyme Modulator Actions

Pp. 207-237 (31)

Samuel Cos, Alicia González, Virginia Alvarez-García, Carolina Alonso-González and Carlos Martínez-Campa


Melatonin exerts oncostatic effects on different kinds of tumors, especially on hormone-dependent breast cancer. The general conclusion is that melatonin, in vivo, reduces the incidence and growth of chemically-induced mammary tumors in rodents, and, in vitro, inhibits the proliferation and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells. Both studies support the hypothesis that melatonin inhibits the growth of breast cancer by interacting with estrogen-signaling pathways through three different mechanisms: (a) indirect neuroendocrine effect which includes the melatonin down-regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-reproductive axis and the consequent reduction of circulating levels of gonadal estrogens, (b) direct melatonin actions at tumor cell level by interacting with the activation of the estrogen receptor, thus behaving as a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), and (c) the regulation of the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of estrogens in peripheral tissues, thus behaving as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator (SEEM). As melatonin reduces the activity and expression of aromatase, sulfatase and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and increases the activity and expression of estrogen sulfotransferase, it may protect mammary tissue from excessive estrogenic effects. Thus, a single molecule has both SERM and SEEM properties, one of the main objectives desired for the breast antitumoral drugs. Since the inhibition of enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of estrogens is currently one of the first therapeutic strategies used against the growth of breast cancer, melatonin modulation of different enzymes involved in the synthesis of steroid hormones make, collectively, this indolamine an interesting anticancer drug in the prevention and treatment of estrogen-dependent mammary tumors.


Melatonin, estrogen, tumors, SERM, SEEM, carcinogenesis, oncostatic, indolamine, carcinoma, estradiol, 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, androgens.


Departamento de Fisiología y Farmacología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Cantabria, Cardenal Herrera Oria s/n, 39011 Santander, Spain