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Testosterone might be the Key to Fighting Breast Cancer

Update Date: Apr 10, 2013 01:25 PM EDT

A clinical trial will begin soon to study the effects of using male sex hormones, such as testosterone, in preventing breast cancer from growing. According to the breast cancer website, the disease afflicts nearly one in eight women living in the United States. The rate of death from breast cancer is also higher for women than any other cancers, with the exception of lung cancer, which is why treatment and early detection are vital. A new study aims to evaluate how male sex hormones contribute to breast cancer and through that finding, researchers aim to find ways of treating breast cancer through a different approach.  

The research team from the University of Colorado that will head this clinical study found that male sex hormones contribute to tumor growth in breast cancer patients. The researchers found that many cases of breast cancers have androgen receptors that allow these male sex hormones to promote the growth of the cancer. Based from this discovery, the researchers aim to find ways of preventing the bond from occurring hoping that by blocking the receptors, the tumor size can be limited. According to Dr. Jennifer Richer and her colleagues, over three-quarters of all cases of breast cancer have these androgen receptors and if these receptors can be blocked, future medical treatment for the cancer can be improved.

Current drugs already attempt to block oestrogen receptors in order to prevent tumor growth. Researchers have known that female sex hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, are linked to tumor growth. However, the role of male sex hormones was not clear. Dr. Richer's current study suggests that if male sex hormones do in fact help tumors grow, blocking these receptors would be effective as well.

"We are excited to move towards clinical trials of anti-androgen therapies in breast cancer," Dr. Richer stated. She believes that patients who have relapsed while on the drug, Tamoxifen, would significantly benefit from this form of treatment.

Dr. Emma Smith from the Cancer Research in the United Kingdom, who was not a part of the study, added, "It's still early days for this research but there's growing interest in the androgen receptor's role in breast cancer as a potential new route to tackle the disease. Cancer Research UK scientists are among those working on whether targeting this receptor could help treat both those women who develop resistance to other treatments and those who have fewer treatment options."

If the clinical trial proves to be successful, breast cancer can be attacked via multiple approaches. 

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