The effect of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) on breast cancer cell proliferation kinetics was investigated in ten human breast cell lines growing as monolayer cultures. Significant inhibition of growth occurred only in the estrogen receptor-positive, progesterone receptor-positive cell lines, T-47D, MCF-7, ZR 75-1, BT 474, and MDA-MB-361. Among these cell lines sensitivity to MPA varied widely; concentrations required for 20% inhibition of growth ranged from 0.04 nm for T-47D to >100 nm for ZR 75-1 cells. Furthermore, although the most sensitive line, T-47D, had the highest level of PR, sensitivity to MPA was not correlated with PR levels among the responsive cell lines.
More detailed studies were undertaken with the T-47D cell line. The growth-inhibitory response was confined to the progestins: MPA, ORG 2058, R5020, and progesterone, while androgens, estrogens, and glucocorticoids were without effect over the same concentration range (0.1–100 nm). MPA-induced growth inhibition was associated with a significant decrease in the proportion of S-phase cells with an accumulation of cells in the G0-G1 phase of the cell cycle. Cells began to accumulate in G0-G1 after 12 h of drug treatment and the effect was maximal by 24 h, i.e., maximal effects were observed during the first cell cycle following drug treatment. By contrast, significant accumulation in G0-G1 required exposure of MCF-7 cells to MPA for at least two cell cycle times, i.e., 48 h and the effect was still increasing at 96 h. Stathmokinetic studies revealed that in both cell lines accumulation in the G0-G1 phase was due to an MPA-induced increase in the G1 transit time.
These data indicate that MPA and other progestins have direct growth inhibitory effects on estrogen receptor-positive and progesterone receptor-positive human breast cancer cells in vitro and these effects can be accounted for by a decrease in the rate at which cells traverse the G1 phase of the cell cycle.
Supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and MLC-Life Ltd.