Aromatase inhibitors in pediatrics

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Abstract

Aromatase, an enzyme located in the endoplasmic reticulum of estrogen-producing cells, catalyzes the rate-limiting step in the conversion of androgens to estrogens in many tissues. The clinical features of patients with defects in CYP19A1, the gene encoding aromatase, have revealed a major role for this enzyme in epiphyseal plate closure, which has promoted interest in the use of inhibitors of aromatase to improve adult height. The availability of the selective aromatase inhibitors letrozole and anastrozole —currently approved as adjuvant therapy for breast cancer—have stimulated off-label use of aromatase inhibitors in pediatrics for the following conditions: hyperestrogenism, such as aromatase excess syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, McCune-Albright syndrome and functional follicular ovarian cysts; hyperandrogenism, for example, testotoxicosis (also known as familial male-limited precocious puberty) and congenital adrenal hyperplasia; pubertal gynecomastia; and short stature and/or pubertal delay in boys. Current data suggest that aromatase inhibitors are probably effective in the treatment of patients with aromatase excess syndrome or testotoxicosis, partially effective in Peutz-Jeghers and McCune-Albright syndrome, but probably ineffective in gynecomastia. Insufficient data are available in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia or functional ovarian cysts. Although aromatase inhibitors appear effective in increasing adult height of boys with short stature and/or pubertal delay, safety concerns, including vertebral deformities, a decrease in serum HDL cholesterol levels and increase of erythrocytosis, are reasons for caution.

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