New Understanding of Breast Cancer

Knowing relationship between estrogen and breast cancer could lead to better treatments

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Breast cancer cells frequently rely on the hormone estrogen to develop and grow. New research has discovered more about this relationship, findings that could lead to new, better treatments.

A University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researcher has advanced understanding of the effects of estrogen on breast cancer cells, showing for the first time how fast and extensive the effect is. These findings could lead to new ways to treat estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, the most common form of the disease.

"Coming soon - new ways to control common breast cancers."

It’s long been known that estrogen action plays an important role in breast cancer cells. About two-thirds of breast cancers contain estrogen receptors, proteins that allow the cell to respond to the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is an initial driver of the cancer growth in ER+ breast cancer.

The estrogen receptor itself has been used to determine the outlook (prognosis) for patients with ER+ breast cancer. Estrogen receptors are also a target for anti-hormone therapies such as tamoxifen. These drugs work to block the estrogen, the food for the cancer cells.

This new study gives researchers a much larger picture of how genes and estrogens work together to cause cells to divide, says said Dr. W. Lee Kraus, director of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study.

“We now have a method in which we can look at what estrogen is doing as soon as it enters the cell,” said Dr. Kraus, who also serves as vice chairman for basic science for obstetrics and gynecology. “The results were really surprising. The genes get turned on and off in a very short time scale.”

These findings, which are being published in the journal Cell, could lead to ways to control cell growth and response to estrogen.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 5, 2011
Last Updated:
May 10, 2011