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Hormonal therapy shows promise in endomentrial cancer treatment

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Hormonal therapy shows promise in endomentrial cancer treatment

According to a study led by G.O. Discovery Lab team and collaborators at University of California, Los Angeles, the microenvironment may represent the new target for treating endometrial cancer. An important role in the pathogenesis of cancer is  played by progesterone, the female hormone that helps maintaining the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. This hormone is used as a treatment for endometrial cancer because it kills cancer cells indirectly by binding to a receptor in the surrounding connective tissue.

The standard treatment for endometrial cancer is hysterectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. Progesterone can be administered if patients want to preserve their fertility, but by the moment biomarkers that predict which tumors will respond to hormone therapy and which not have not been found.

endometrial cancer

endometrial cancer

Although endometrial cancer is regulated by hormones like breast or prostate cancer, however in treating endometrial cancer, hormonal therapies are not used to block the hormone signaling but rather to stimulate specific hormone receptors. Although it is not known exactly what mechanism underlies this treatment, however it is known that some patients will respond to treatment with progesterone. Study senior author Dr. Sanaz Memarzadeh, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the GO Discovery Lab at UCLA, said it is not known from the beginning which patients will respond to hormonal treatment and which have resistant tumors. Due to this fact, progesterone is not  widely used in clinical practice although might help some patients.

Memarzadeh, who also is a researcher at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, said that when scientists see under the microscope tumors, they focus on tumor cells and neglect the stroma, that is the microenvironment. Their study showed that virtually all anti-tumor effects of progesterone are actually mediated by stroma, even if this represents only a small part of the tumor.

Memarzadeh and his team of researchers made many laboratory experiments and demonstrated that if you remove the progesterone receptor, the hormone therapy has no effect. A promising finding is that in hormone resistant endometrial cancer model, tumor cells become sensitive when progesterone receptors are reactivated. Researchers will now apply the discovery in patients with endometrial cancer to see if it has the same effect in humans. Besides, they hope to discover biomarkers that predict which patients will respond to hormonal therapy and who do not. In addition, they want to find and test drug to combat resistance to progesterone.