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Possible therapy for tamoxifen resistant breast cancer identified
Date:8/30/2012

  • The hormone estrogen stimulates the growth of breast cancers that are estrogen-receptor positive, the most common form of breast cancer.
  • The drug tamoxifen blocks this estrogen effect and prolongs the lives of, and helps to cure, patients with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.
  • About 30 percent of these patients have tumors that are resistant to tamoxifen.
  • This study shows how these resistant tumors survive and grow, and it identifies an experimental agent that targets these breast cancers.

  • COLUMBUS, Ohio A study by researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC James) has discovered how tamoxifen-resistant breast-cancer cells grow and proliferate. It also suggests that an experimental agent might offer a novel targeted therapy for tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer.

    Like a second door that opens after the first door closes, a signaling pathway called hedgehog (Hhg) can promote the growth of breast-cancer cells after tamoxifen shuts down the pathway activated by the hormone estrogen. A second signaling pathway, called PI3K/AKT, is also involved.

    Activation of the Hhg pathway renders tamoxifen treatment ineffective and enables the tumor to resume its growth and progression. As part of the study, the researchers analyzed over 300 human tumors and found that the tumors with an activated Hhg pathway had a worse prognosis.

    Finally, the researchers showed that an experimental drug called vismodegib, which blocks the Hhg pathway, inhibits the growth of tamoxifen-resistant human breast tumors in an animal model. The drug is in clinical trials testing for other types of cancer.

    Currently, chemotherapy is used to treat hormone-resistant breast cancers, but this is associated with significant side effects. This study has identified targeted therapies that could be an alternative to chemotherapy for t
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    Contact: Darrell E. Ward
    Darrell.Ward@osumc.edu
    614-293-3737
    Ohio State University Medical Center
    Source:Eurekalert

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