In breast cancer, the interaction between estrogen-producing breast adipose fibroblasts (BAFs) and estrogen-dependent epithelial tumor cells is pivotal. Local estrogen production is catalyzed by aromatase, which is differentially regulated in disease-free and tumorigenic breast tissue. The use of aromatase inhibitors to block local estrogen production has proven effective in treatment of estrogen-dependent breast cancer. However, a major problem during breast cancer treatment is the sudden onset of menopause and many women seek for alternative medicines, such as the soy isoflavone genistein. In this study, we show that genistein can induce estrogen-dependent MCF-7 tumor cell growth and increase breast cancer-associated aromatase expression and activity in vitro. We have previously developed an in vitro breast cancer model where the positive feedback loop between primary BAFs and estrogen-dependent MCF-7 tumor cells is operational, thereby representing a more natural in vitro model for breast cancer. In this model, genistein could negate the growth inhibitory action of the aromatase inhibitor fadrozole at physiologically relevant concentrations. These data suggest that soy-based supplements might affect the efficacy of breast cancer treatment with aromatase inhibitors. Considering the high number of breast cancer patients using soy supplements to treat menopausal symptoms, the increasing risk for adverse interactions with breast cancer treatment is of major concern and should be considered with care
van Duursen MB, Nijmeijer SM, de Morree ES, de Jong PC, van den Berg M. Genistein induces breast cancer-associated aromatase and stimulates estrogen-dependent tumor cell growth in in vitro breast cancer model. Toxicology. 2011 November Endocrine Toxicology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 2, PO Box 80177, 3508 TD, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.