Growth inhibition of estrogen receptor-positive and aromatase-positive human breast cancer cells in monolayer and spheroid cultures by letrozole, anastrozole, and tamoxifen

Ikuko Kijima, Toru Itoh, Shiuan Chen
Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2005, 97 (4): 360-8
Two third-generation aromatase inhibitors, letrozole and anastrozole, and the antiestrogen tamoxifen, were compared for growth-inhibiting activity in two estrogen receptor (ER)-positive aromatase-overexpressing human breast cancer cell lines, MCF-7aro and T-47Daro. Inhibition of hormone (1 nM testosterone)-stimulated proliferation was evaluated in both monolayer cultures and in three-dimensional spheroid cultures. Letrozole and anastrozole were also compared for effectiveness of aromatase inhibition, and relative affinity for aromatase, under both monolayer and spheroid growth conditions. Letrozole was an effective inhibitor of MCF-7aro monolayer cell proliferation, with an estimated 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 50-100 nM, whereas an IC50 was not reached with anastrozole at any concentration tested (100-500 nM). An IC50 of tamoxifen was 1000 nM. Proliferation of T-47Daro monolayer cells was more sensitive to inhibition by all three agents; as with MCF-7aro cells, letrozole was the most effective inhibitor. MCF-7aro spheroids were slightly less sensitive than monolayer cells proliferation-inhibiting effects of letrozole (IC50 about 200 nM), and there was no significant inhibition with 100-200 nM anastrozole or 200-1000 nM tamoxifen. Letrozole and anastrozole significantly inhibited T-47Daro spheroid cell proliferation, at 15-25 and 50 nM, respectively, consistent with the greater sensitivity of T-47Daro monolayer cells to inhibition of proliferation by these agents. Tamoxifen failed to significantly inhibit T-47Daro spheroid cell proliferation over a 100-500 nM concentration range. Determination of aromatase inhibition in monolayers of both cell lines by a direct-access microsomal assay and an intact-cell assay revealed that letrozole was more active than anastrozole in monolayers of both cell lines and in both assays. In MCF-7aro spheroids following cell lysis, only letrozole significantly inhibited aromatase activity, supporting the conclusion that letrozole binds stronger to aromatase than anastrozole does. Our results demonstrate that MCF-7aro and T-47Daro spheroids could be a suitable model for evaluation of growth-inhibitory effects of agents used in hormonal therapy of breast cancer.

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