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C Grundker, AR Gunthert, M Hellriegel and G Emons

BACKGROUND AND METHODS: The majority of human endometrial (>80%), ovarian (>80%) and breast (>50%) cancers express GnRH receptors. Their spontaneous and epidermal growth-factor-induced proliferation is dose- and time-dependently reduced by treatment with GnRH and its agonists. In this study, we demonstrate that the GnRH agonist triptorelin inhibits estradiol (E2)-induced cancer cell proliferation. RESULTS: The proliferation of quiescent estrogen receptor alpha (ER alpha)-/ER beta-positive, but not of ER alpha-negative/ER beta-positive endometrial, ovarian and breast cancer cell lines, was significantly stimulated (P<0.001) (ANOVA) after treatment with E2 (10(-8) M). This effect was time- and dose-dependently antagonized by simultaneous treatment with triptorelin. The inhibitory effect was maximal at 10(-5) M concentration of triptorelin (P<0.001). In addition, we could show that, in ER alpha-/ER beta-positive cell lines, E2 induces activation of serum response element (SRE) and expression of the immediate early-response gene c-fos. These effects were blocked by triptorelin (P<0.001). E2-induced activation of estrogen-response element (ERE) was not affected by triptorelin. CONCLUSIONS: The transcriptional activation of SRE by E2 is due to ER alpha activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. This pathway is impeded by GnRH, resulting in a reduction of E2-induced SRE activation and, in consequence, a reduction of E2-induced c-fos expression. This causes downregulation of E2-induced cancer cell proliferation.

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C Grundker, AR Gunthert, S Westphalen and G Emons

The expression of GnRH and its receptor as a part of an autocrine regulatory system of cell proliferation has been demonstrated in a number of human malignant tumors, including cancers of the breast, ovary and endometrium. Dose-dependent antiproliferative effects of GnRH agonists in cell lines derived from these cancers have been observed by various investigators. GnRH antagonists also have marked antiproliferative activity in most breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer cell lines tested, indicating that the dichotomy of GnRH agonists and antagonists might not apply to the GnRH system in cancer cells. The classical GnRH receptor signal-transduction mechanisms, known to operate in the pituitary, are not involved in the mediation of antiproliferative effects of GnRH analogs in cancer cells. Rather, the GnRH receptor interacts with the mitogenic signal transduction of growth factor receptors and related oncogene products associated with tyrosine kinase activity, via activation of a phosphotyrosine phosphatase, resulting in downregulation of cancer cell proliferation. In addition, GnRH activates nuclear factor kappaB and protects the cancer cells from apoptosis. Furthermore, GnRH induces activation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase/activator protein-1 (AP-1) pathway independent of the known AP-1 activators, protein kinase or mitogen activated protein kinase.