According to recent findings that beside cancers traditionally considered as hormone-dependent, several other tumor types show different behavior in the two sexes, indicating the possible role of endocrine factors in the course of these diseases. The possibility that endocrine factors may influence the clinical course of human malignant melanoma is suggested by the higher survival rate in premenopausal vs. postmenopausal women or men of any ages. However, investigations on the sex hormone receptor status of human cutaneous melanomas and experiments attempting to support the epidemiological results yielded conflicting results. In our human melanoma cell lines we failed to detect steroid receptors at protein level, while quantitative PCR demonstrated that their mRNA expression level was orders of magnitude lower compared to the positive control cell lines. Sex hormones did not influence the in vitro features of the human melanoma cells considerably. On the other hand, glucocorticoid receptor was present both at mRNA and protein level, although dexamethasone was effective in vitro only at high doses. Our previous experiments showed that intrasplenic injection of human melanoma cells resulted in a significantly higher number of liver colonies in male than in female SCID mice. We now show that this difference evolves during the first day. After injection into the tail vein we did not observe gender-dependent difference in the efficiency of pulmonary colonization. Examining the pattern of metastasis formation after intracardiac injection, we have found differences between the two sexes in the incidence or number of colonies only in the case of the liver but not in other organs. We concluded that the observed phenomenon is specific to the liver; therefore we investigated the effects of 2-methoxyestradiol, an endogenous metabolite ofestradiol produced mainly in the liver, with an estrogen receptor-independent antitumor activity. 2ME2 effectively inhibited melanoma cell proliferation by inducing apoptosis and an arrest in the G2/M phase. The mechanism of action involved microtu-bules, mitochondrial damage and caspase activation as well. In SCID mice, 2ME2 was effective in reducing primary tumor weight and the number of liver colonies after intrasplenic injection of human melanoma cells, and causing significantly higher rate of apoptotic cells in the colonies.
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