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Adverse effects of aromatase inhibition on the brain and behavior in a non-human primate

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The ovaries are often thought of as the main and only source of estrogens involved in the regulation of female behavior. However, aromatase, the key enzyme for estrogen synthesis, although it is more abundant in males, is expressed and active in the brain of females where it is regulated by similar mechanisms as in males. Early work had shown that estrogens produced in the ventromedial hypothalamus are involved in the regulation of female sexual behavior in musk shrews. However, the question of the role of central aromatase in general had not received much attention until recently. Here, I will review the emerging concept that central aromatization plays a role in the regulation of physiological and behavioral endpoints in females. The data support the notion that in females, brain aromatase is not simply a non-functional evolutionary vestige, and provide support for the importance of locally produced estrogens for brain function in females. These observations should also have an impact for clinical research.
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Menopausal women often suffer from hot flashes and sleep disturbances that significantly impact their quality of life. Both human and animal studies suggest that loss of estrogens during menopause contribute to these symptoms. In the female rat, both core body temperature (CBT) and sleep are sensitive to 17β-estradiol (E2) levels, but important differences between the rat and the human patterns limit the interpretation of the results. The sleep and thermoregulation of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) more closely resembles human patterns. However, no study to date has examined whether E2 influences sleep and thermoregulation in this species. The main goal of the present study was to investigate the suitability of the ovariectomized (OVX) marmoset for studying two major menopausal symptoms experienced by women, sleep disturbance and thermodysregulation. Two middle-aged OVX marmosets (6 years old) were implanted with a telemeter that records electroencephalograms (EEG), electromyograms (EMG), and CBT. Sleep patterns and CBT were recorded under baseline, two E2 replacement (6 & 12 µg/kg/day, p.o.) conditions and two E2 withdrawal conditions. Relative to both baseline and withdrawal, high E2 replacement was associated with lower nighttime CBT. In addition, fewer nighttime arousals were observed under low E2 replacement compared to baseline. Higher delta power was observed under both E2 replacement conditions suggesting enhanced sleep quality. These preliminary results suggest that E2 modulates sleep and thermoregulation in the OVX marmoset, making it a promising model for studying menopausal symptoms.
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Oestrogen receptor-positive (ER(+)) breast cancer is a major cause of cancer death in women. Although aromatase inhibitors suppress the function of ER and reduce the risk of recurrence, therapeutic resistance is common and essentially inevitable in advanced disease. This Review considers both genomic and cell biological explanations as to why ER(+) breast cancer cells persist, progress and cause an incurable, lethal, systemic disease. The design and outcomes of clinical trials are considered with the perspective that resistance mechanisms are heterogeneous, and therefore biomarker and somatic mutation-based stratification and eligibility will be essential for improvements in patient outcomes.
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Purpose: Emerging evidence suggests that primary and metastatic brain tumors may be sensitive to hormonal manipulations. However, the pharmacokinetics of compounds against such targets in the brain and, more importantly, in the brain tumor are not well characterized. Here, we investigated the pharmacokinetics of letrozole, a third-generation aromatase inhibitor, in the normal brain and in orthotopically implanted C6 glioma in Sprague-Dawley rats. Methods: Intracerebral microdialysis was employed to determine the concentrations of unbound letrozole in the brain extracellular fluid (ECF) while simultaneously collecting blood samples (via jugular vein) to assess plasma levels of letrozole. Letrozole was administered intravenously at doses of 4, 6, 8 and 12 mg/kg, and ECF and blood samples were collected over 8 h. For assessing normal versus tumoral brain pharmacokinetics, letrozole (4 or 8 mg/Kg; i.v.) was administered 10 days after implantation of C6 glioma in the brain. Dual-probe intracerebral microdialysis was employed for assessing ECF samples from tumor-free and tumor-bearing regions of the brain. Results: Normal brain ECF and plasma C max and AUC0-8h increased linearly with letrozole doses up to 8 mg/kg dose, but at 12 mg/kg, the pharmacokinetics were nonlinear. The relative brain distribution coefficients, AUCECF/AUCplasma (ub), were 0.3-0.98. The tumoral uptake of letrozole was 1.5- to 2-fold higher relative to tumor-free region. Conclusions: Thus, letrozole permeability across the blood brain barrier is high, and the exposure to the brain is dose dependent. Furthermore, the brain tumoral letrozole levels are markedly higher than those in the tumor-free regions, which underscore potential selectivity of its activity against tumor cells.
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The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate the cognitive effects of adjuvant hormonal therapies in breast cancer patients. Post-menopausal breast cancer patients scheduled to receive tamoxifen (n=31) or anastrozole (n=14) completed neuropsychological testing around the time of commencement of treatment (T1), and again 5-6 months later (T2). A sample of healthy female volunteers (n=28) was tested at comparable intervals. A standardized regression-based approach was used to assess cognitive change. This method uses test/retest scores of the healthy control group to generate an equation that predicts T2 scores from T1 scores. The difference between the predicted and obtained T2 scores divided by the standard error of the estimate produces a deviation score that reflects the discrepancy from the T1-T2 difference scores that would be expected on the basis of practice and error alone. Analysis of individual deviation scores revealed that both the patients taking tamoxifen and those taking anastrozole were more likely than healthy controls to show reliable cognitive decline from T1 to T2 (39, 64, and 7%, respectively). Processing speed and verbal memory were the cognitive domains most affected. These data suggest that hormonal therapies exert a subtle negative influence on cognition in breast cancer patients. Further analyses indicated that this effect was not fully accounted for by demographic factors or fatigue. Methodological limitations of the current study are addressed, along with recommendations for future studies in this area.
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Quantitative analysis of Golgi-stained neurons in the preoptic area of the brain of prepuberal Macaca fascicularis monkeys indicated structural differences between males and females. Neurons of males had more dendritic bifurcations and a higher frequency of spines. The bifurcation difference appeared in all cell types and was concentrated in the ventrolateral preoptic area. The spine difference was greatest in the central region of the preoptic area. No differences in gross measurements of this brain region were found. These results suggest that sexual dimorphism in the function of the monkey preoptic area may be based on differences in neuronal structure.
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This investigation examined effects of chronic (>/=2 yr) hormone replacement therapy (HRT), both estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) and estrogen plus progesterone therapy (E+P), on core temperature and skin blood flow responses of postmenopausal women. Twenty-five postmenopausal women [9 not on HRT (NO), 8 on ERT, 8 on E+P] exercised on a cycle ergometer for 1 h at an ambient temperature of 36 degrees C. Cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) was monitored by laser-Doppler flowmetry, and forearm vascular conductance (FVC) was measured by using venous occlusion plethysmography. Iontophoresis of bretylium tosylate was performed before exercise to block local vasoconstrictor (VC) activity at one skin site on the forearm. Rectal temperature (Tre) was approximately 0.5 degrees C lower for the ERT group (P < 0.01) compared with E+P and NO groups at rest and throughout exercise. FVC: mean body temperature (Tb) and CVC: Tb curves were shifted approximately 0.5 degrees C leftward for the ERT group (P < 0.0001). Baseline CVC was significantly higher in the ERT group (P < 0.05), but there was no interaction between bretylium treatment and groups once exercise was initiated. These results suggest that 1) chronic ERT likely acts centrally to decrease Tre, 2) ERT lowers the Tre at which heat-loss effector mechanisms are initiated, primarily by actions on active cutaneous vasodilation, and 3) addition of exogenous progestins in HRT effectively blocks these effects.
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To determine if estrogen ameliorates hot flashes by raising the core body temperature sweating threshold, by reducing core body temperature fluctuations, and/or by reducing sympathetic activation (as measured by plasma 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol). Laboratory physiological study. University medical center. Twenty-four healthy postmenopausal women reporting frequent hot flashes. Participants were randomly assigned, in double-blind fashion, to receive 1 mg/d 17beta-estradiol orally or placebo for 90 days. Core body temperature, core body temperature fluctuations, mean skin temperature, sternal sweat rate, laboratory hot flash counts (sternal skin conductance), plasma 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol. The E(2) group had significant increases in plasma E(2) (8 +/- 2 vs. 132 +/- 22 pg/mL) and core body temperature sweating threshold (37.98 +/- 0.09 vs. 38.14 +/- 0.09 degrees C) and decreases in plasma FSH (58.8 +/- 8.9 vs. 40.1 +/- 7.6 mIU/mL) and hot flashes (1.4 +/- 0.5 vs. 0.6 +/- 0.6). These changes did not occur in the placebo group. There were no significant changes in any other measure. E(2) ameliorates hot flashes by raising the core body temperature sweating threshold, but does not affect core temperature fluctuations or plasma 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol.
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It is well known that estradiol derived from neural aromatization of testosterone plays a crucial role in the development of the male brain and the display of sexual behaviors in adulthood. It was recently found that male aromatase knockout mice (ArKO) deficient in estradiol due to a mutation in the aromatase gene have general deficits in coital behavior and are sexually less motivated. We wondered whether these behavioral deficits of ArKO males could be related to changes in activity, exploration, anxiety and "depressive-like" symptomatology. ArKO and wild type (WT) males were subjected to open field (OF), elevated plus maze (EPM), and forced swim tests (FST), after being exposed or not to chronic mild stress (CMS). CMS was used to evaluate the impact of chronic stressful procedures and to unveil possible differences between genotypes. There was no effect of genotype on OF, EPM and FST behavioral parameters. WT and ArKO mice exposed to CMS or not exhibited the same behavioral profile during these three types of tests. However, all CMS-exposed mice (ArKO and WT) spent less time in the center of the EPM. Additionally, floating duration measured in the FST increased between two tests in both WT and ArKO mice, though that increase was less prominent in mice previously subjected to CMS than in controls. Therefore, both ArKO and WT males displayed the same behavior and had the same response to CMS however CMS exposure slightly modified the behavior displayed by mice of both genotypes in the FST and EPM paradigms. These results show that ArKO males display normal levels of activity, exploration, anxiety and "depressive-like" symptomatology and thus their deficits in sexual behavior are specific in nature and do not result indirectly from other behavioral changes.
Memory impairments with adjuvant anastrozole versus tamoxifen in women with early-stage breast cancer
  • J Bayer
  • G Rune
  • H Schultz
  • M J Tobia
  • I Mebes
  • O Katzler
  • T Sommer
  • S M Sereika
  • A M Brufsky
  • C M Ryan
  • V G Vogel
  • P Rastogi
  • S M Cohen
  • F E Casillo
  • S L Berga
Bayer J, Rune G, Schultz H, Tobia MJ, Mebes I, Katzler O, Sommer T (2015) The effect of estrogen synthesis inhibition on hippocampal memory. Psychoneuroendocrinology 56:213-225. CrossRef Medline Bender CM, Sereika SM, Brufsky AM, Ryan CM, Vogel VG, Rastogi P, Cohen SM, Casillo FE, Berga SL (2007) Memory impairments with adjuvant anastrozole versus tamoxifen in women with early-stage breast cancer. Menopause 14:995-998. CrossRef Medline Blaustein JD (2017) Treatments for breast cancer that affect cognitive function in postmenopausal women. Policy Insights Behav Brain Sci 4: 170 -177. CrossRef