Scientists link breast cancer to androgen
Jul 20, 2011
Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston have discovered new potential pathways for the growth of breast cancer, a finding that may lead to novel treatment methods for previously resistant forms of cancer. One of several recent breast cancer breakthroughs, news of the finding excited researchers, doctors and patients alike.
The study notes that about three out of every four cases of breast cancer is caused by problematic estrogen receptors in breast cells. Estrogen that clogs a receptor leads to unmitigated, cancerous cell growth, and many forms of treatment attempt to aggressively normalize the functions of the hormone and its receptors.
In some cases in which treatment is ineffective, researchers note that their discovery of a certain type of tumor, one that accounts for about 25 percent of breast cancer diagnoses, targets androgen receptors instead.
"We identified a novel subtype of breast tumor which grows in response to androgen but not estrogen," said Myles Brown, collaborator and senior author of the study, "and have uncovered the signaling pathways involved in its growth." Drugs specifically designed to react with androgen, Brown notes, can slow tumor growth in cases resistant to estrogen treatments.
The finding provides significant hope for developing new breast cancer treatments. The disease has become alarmingly prevalent in women within the last 50 years, and today about one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.