Institute of Biochemistry
Faculty of Medicine
University of Ljubljana

Vrazov trg 2
SI 1000, Ljubljana

Tel: +386-1-543-7672
Fax: +386-1-543-7641



Laboratory for molecular basis of hormone-dependent diseases and biomarkers (0381-059)




The research interests of our group are the roles of steroid hormones in etiology of steroid hormone dependent diseases and identification of novel drug targets and diagnostic biomarkers of these diseases.

Steroid hormones have pivotal roles in human homeostasis. When their actions are disturbed, this can lead to the development of hormone-dependent diseases, including hormone-dependent cancers and several benign diseases. There is a compelling need to better understand the etiology of these common diseases. In this respect our group is investigating the mechanisms of steroid hormone action under these pathological conditions. We are studying the individual estrogen, progesterone and androgen biosynthetic and metabolizing enzymes, the individual metabolites formed, the receptors, and the components of the intracellular signaling cascades in diseased tissue and in model cell lines of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and endometriosis.

Our objectives are
1) to further the understanding of steroid actions in hormone-dependent diseases and

2) to contribute to the identification of novel drug targets and diagnostic biomarkers among the estrogen and progesterone biosynthetic and metabolizing enzymes, and their corresponding classical or membrane-bound receptors and disease-associated metabolites.

Representative publications:

Aldo-Keto Reductases and Cancer Drug Resistance.
doi: 10.1124/pharmrev.120.000122. [COBISS.SI-ID 67481603].

Aldo-keto reductase 1C3 – assessment as a new target for the treatment of endometriosis
doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2019.104446. [COBISS.SI-ID 34486233].

Relevance of Steroid Biosynthesis, Metabolism and Transport in Pathophysiology and Drug Discovery
doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.00245. [COBISS.SI-ID 34224857].

Membrane progesterone receptors β and γ have potential as prognostic biomarkers of endometrial cancer
doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2018.01.011. [COBISS.SI-ID 33619161].

The importance of steroid uptake and intracrine action in endometrial and ovarian cancers
doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00346. [COBISS.SI-ID 33256153].

The significance of the sulfatase pathway for local estrogen formation in endometrial cancer
doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00368. [COBISS.SI-ID 33290457],

The important roles of steroid sulfatase and sulfotransferases in gynecological diseases
doi: 10.3389/fphar.2016.00030. [COBISS.SI-ID 32487129]

Estrogen biosynthesis, phase I and phase II metabolism, and action in endometrial cancer
doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2013.07.026. [COBISS.SI-ID 30741465]

Role of aldo-keto reductase family 1 (AKR1) enzymes in human steroid metabolism
doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2013.10.012. [COBISS.SI-ID 30940121]

Disturbed balance between phase I and II metabolizing enzymes in ovarian endometriosis: A source of excessive hydroxy-estrogens and ROS?
doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2012.12.019. [COBISS.SI-ID 30367193]

There is a great need for early diagnosis and individualized patient-oriented treatments for hormone-dependent diseases. In collaboration with the Department of Gynaecology at the University Clinical Centre, Ljubljana, we are addressing the lack of appropriate biomarkers for diagnosis of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and endometriosis. To accomplish these aims we are using targeted cutting-edge transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics approaches.

Our objectives are
1) to provide diagnostic and prognostic algorithms with high sensitivity and specificity that will be available for further clinical validation and application, and will thus pave the way for future development of diagnostic assays, and

2) to identify proteins associated with diseases that may serve as tissue markers following successful validation in larger sets of archival pathological specimens, and demonstrated correlation with disease outcome.

Representative publications:

Proteomic analysis of peritoneal fluid identified COMP and TGFBI as new candidate biomarkers for endometriosis.

AKR1B1 and AKR1B10 as Prognostic Biomarkers of Endometrioid Endometrial Carcinomas.
doi: 10.3390/cancers13143398. [COBISS.SI-ID 69972739]

AKR1C3 Is Associated with Better Survival of Patients with Endometrial Carcinomas.
doi: 10.1002/cmdc.202000762. [COBISS.SI-ID 43786755]

Multiplex analysis of 40 cytokines do not allow separation between endometriosis patients and controls
doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52899-8. [COBISS.SI-ID 34551001]

Models including plasma levels of sphingomyelins and phosphatidylcholines as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers of endometrial cancer
doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2018.01.012. [COBISS.SI-ID 33617625]

Models including serum CA-125, BMI, cyst pathology, dysmenorrhea or dyspareunia for diagnosis of endometriosis
doi: 10.2217/bmm-2017-0426. [COBISS.SI-ID 33799897]

Novel algorithm including CA-125, HE4 and body mass index in the diagnosis of endometrial cancer
doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2017.07.130. [COBISS.SI-ID 33323737]

Discovery of biomarkers for endometrial cancer : current status and prospects
doi: 10.1080/14737159.2016.1258302. [COBISS.SI-ID 32924633]

Altered levels of acylcarnitines, phosphatidylcholines, and sphingomyelins in peritoneal fluid from ovarian endometriosis patients
doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2016.02.023. [COBISS.SI-ID 32502745]

Diagnostic potential of peritoneal fluid biomarkers of endometriosis
doi: 10.1586/14737159.2015.1015994. [COBISS.SI-ID 31819993]