How Does Estrogen Feed Breast Cancer Tumors?

Mar 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study is providing insight into how estrogen fuels many breast cancers, and researchers say the findings could lead to new cancer-fighting drugs.

Researchers found that estrogen inhibits a protein called MLK3 that causes normal cell death. Blocking MLK3 leads to uncontrolled growth of cancer cells and resistance to chemotherapy.

Researchers from Loyola University Health System and three other centers reported the findings in the journal Cancer Research.

"This could give us a new angle to treating ," said senior author Ajay Rana, PhD, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

About 60 percent of all breast cancers are estrogen-positive or progesterone-positive. This means the cancer cells have receptors for the female hormones estrogen and . Consequently, the hormones fuel the tumor's growth.

In laboratory experiments, researchers found that in estrogen-positive and progesterone-positive cancer cells, there is a reduction in the activity of MLK3. Consequently, cells can continue growing, changing and developing resistance to chemotherapy. "Cancer cells are very smart," Dr. Rana said.

By contrast, Dr. Rana's team found that MLK3 activity was much higher in estrogen-negative and progesterone-negative .

The next step, Dr. Rana said, is to look for a drug that would overcome the inhibitory effect of estrogen on MLK3. Such a drug would be taken in combination with .

Explore further: New chemical technology boosts potency of targeted cancer therapy

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Vortex device makes for better cancer treatments

9 hours ago

A South Australian invention, responsible for unboiling an egg, has been used to produce a four-fold increase in efficacy of carboplatin, a commonly used drug for ovarian, lung and other cancer. ...

Using healthy skin to identify cancer's origins

May 21, 2015

Normal skin contains an unexpectedly high number of cancer-associated mutations, according to a study published in Science. The findings illuminate the first steps cells take towards becoming a cancer and de ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.