Abstract Application of aromatase inhibitors to the treatment of conditions in which estrogen plays, a role is discussed. Studies in vitro demonstrate that 4-hydroxyandrostenedione (4-OHA) is a potent inhibitor of aromatase. The compound reduces ovariant estrogen production and causes regression of carcinogen (DMBA)-induced mammary tumors in the rat. In the rhesus monkey, 4-OHA was also shown to inhibit peripheral aromatization. To date 58 postmenopausal breast cancer patients with advanced metastatic disease have received 500 mg im weekly while 31 patients received 250 mg 4-OHA orally per day. Estradiol levels were significantly reduced in all patients from a mean of 7.2 + 0.8 pg/ml to 2.8 + 0.3 pg/ml. Of patients receiving 4-OHA im 27% had partial or complete responses and in 10% of patients the disease was stabilized. Similar responses occurred in the patients receiving 4-OHA orally. These results suggest that 4-OHA is effective and that this compound and other aromatase inhibitors could be valuable new additions to the treatment of breast cancer.