Estrogen Increases Brain Tumor Growth


Estrogen receptors have been discovered in medulloblastoma, the highly malignant brain tumor most commonly found in children.

Estrogen receptors have been discovered in medulloblastoma (MD) the highly malignant brain tumor most commonly found in children leading researchers to believe that there may be benefits to using anti-estrogen treatments to limit tumor progression.

In a study published in the March 2009 edition of Endocrinology, the publication of the Endocrine Society, the University of Cincinnati researchers presented data gathered from examining the tumor tissue of 22 patients whose ages ranged from six months to 18 years. They found signs of estrogen receptors in the cancer cells of all tumors examined.

Lead investigator Scott Belcher, PhD, explained that “Current therapies for medulloblastoma involve cranial surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. 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 radiation treatment.”

Currently medulloblastoma patients 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.”

Medulloblastoma is known to manifest when particular neuron precursors found in the brain fail to cease differentiating normally into mature neurons, with the process being regulated by estrogen receptors. By restraining these estrogen receptors, it is believed that the growth of medulloblastoma and tumor cells could be blocked.

“We 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,” explained Belcher. “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… We 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.”

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