—University of Cincinnati researchers have discovered that estrogen receptors are present in
most common type of pediatric brain tumor—leading them to believe that
anti-estrogen drug treatments may be beneficial in limiting tumor
progression and improving patients’ overall outcome.
This research is being published in the March 2009 edition of
estrogen-responsive cancers—such as breast cancer—estrogen receptors
act to increase tumor growth and progression. Estrogen receptors are
also the most important drug targets for the treatment of breast cancer.
“Current therapies for medulloblastoma involve cranial surgery, chemotherapy and radiation,” says
PhD, principal investigator of the study. “This discovery suggests that
we may be able to use anti-hormone or estrogen drug therapies—like
those used to treat breast cancers—to limit progression of these
childhood brain tumors and to decrease the adverse side-effects of
Medulloblastoma, or MD, is a highly malignant brain tumor, most commonly diagnosed in children.
with MD typically have a five-year survival rate between 50 and 70
percent, and survivors who endure current, more aggressive treatments
face an increased risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes or
cardiovascular disease later in life.
an associate professor in the department of pharmacology and cell
biophysics at UC, and his team examined tumor tissue from 22 patients
between the ages of 6 months and 18 years.
They found evidence of estrogen receptors, particularly estrogen receptor beta, in the cancerous cells of every tumor analyzed.
manifests when specific neuron precursors in the brain fail to stop
normally differentiating into mature neurons,” Belcher says. “Our
previous studies showed that estrogen receptors are regulated during
differentiation of these neuronal precursors. MD growth and tumor cell
formation can be blocked by inhibiting the activity of these receptors.”
Belcher said these results demonstrate the importance of “bench to bedside” discoveries.
started in tumor cells and then moved to animal models of MD and found
that we could stop the growth of tumors using anti-estrogen therapies,”
he says. “We’ve been able to identify these receptors in humans. We are
now hoping that our basic developmental biology findings can take the
final step by stopping the growth of these tumors in humans.”
believe that development of rational anti-estrogen drug therapies for
this highly malignant cancer is a possibility and could improve the
lives of many children and adult survivors,” he continues.
This study was funded by the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and a Translation Research grant from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.