Background:Steroid sulphatase (STS) is one of the steroid-metabolising enzymes involved in desulphating inactive steroid sulphates and oestrogen sulphotransferase (EST) sulphates active oestrogen. The roles of both STS and EST have not been examined in oestrogen-dependent non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC).Methods:We evaluated the immunoreactivity of STS and EST in NSCLC cases using immunohistochemistry. The function of STS and EST was further demonstrated using NSCLC cell lines.Results:The immunoreactivity of STS and EST was detected in 49.5% and 27.8% of NSCLC cases, respectively. The immunoreactivity of STS was significantly higher in female adenocarcinoma cases. The STS-positive NSCLCs were also significantly correlated in an inversed manner with tumour size and cell proliferation and tended to be associated with better clinical outcome. However, the immunoreactivity of EST was significantly correlated with intracellular oestradiol concentration. Results of in vitro analysis demonstrated that oestrone sulphate (E1-S) induced and pregnenolone sulphate (Preg-S) inhibited the proliferation in STS-expressing cell lines. The inhibition by Preg-S was reversed by a specific progesterone receptor blocker. Simultaneous addition of E1-S and Preg-S significantly suppressed the proliferation.Conclusion:In NSCLC patients, STS is considered a good prognostic factor. Results of our present study also indicated the benefits of potential progesterone therapy for NSCLC patients.