Could Colon Cancer be Prevented?

Cancer treatments may target ERalpha and ERbeta

(RxWiki News) While estrogen is primarily a female hormone, both men and women have estrogen receptors. Working with these molecules may lead to better ways to treat and even prevent cancers.

In two studies, University of Houston researchers have found important new mechanisms relating to estrogen receptors (ER) that could lead to new treatments for both breast and colon cancers.

"Targeting estrogen receptors may lead to new breast and colon cancer treatments."

Estrogen receptors are known as regulatory molecules that permit estrogen and other molecules to be active in a cell. When ERs are present, the form of the disease is called ER-positive (ER+) breast cancer.

Researchers led by Cecilia Williams of the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS), examined the behavior of two ERs:

  • ERalpha plays a role in the development of breast cancer in women
  • ERbeta is thought to prevent colon cancer

In the first study, Williams' team looked at ERbeta in cancer cell lines to see how estrogen hormones may prevent colon cancer.

Williams explains this work found that colorectal cancer cell growth is slowed when ERbeta is present. The molecule also protects against the formation of new cancer cells.

This discovery could lead to the development of compounds that encourage this receptor to go to work to prevent colon cancer from ever getting started.

In the second study, the team looked at how ERalpha works in breast cancer. The gene KCNK5 was identified as one that stimulates estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells.

This finding could lead to new therapies that would target KCNK5 to treat ER+ breast cancer, the most common form of the disease.

Williams says this research will create new opportunities for producing treatments that focus on the specific estrogen receptor to battle cancer cells.

Both studies are published in the journal Molecular Endocrinology.

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Review Date: 
August 24, 2011