Researchers found that in women 65 and over, higher aromatase levels were associated with more aggressive disease and a greater risk of death.
"We were surprised at what we found," said Goodglick, who also serves as co-director of the UCLA Early Detection Research Network and is an investigator in the lung cancer SPORE program. "Pioneering work done by Richard Pietras' group here at UCLA had shown that the hormone estrogen had a major impact on lung cancer, analogous to what is seen in breast or ovarian tissues. But we didn't know this enzyme, aromatase, would be so important, and we certainly didn't anticipate that it would play a seemingly bigger role in women than in men. At the start of this study, we basically put these data into an unbiased black box and discovered these novel correlations."
Goodglick said it is an important question why aromatase levels work as predictors only in women and, equally as intriguing, why they work best in those over 65. It does not appear to be related to menopause, since the average age of onset is about 51. Instead, it may have more to do with levels of another family of hormones, androgens, which steadily decrease in women over 65. Aromatases use certain androgens as starting material to make estrogen. The cancer may be devising ever-changing strategies to, in effect, feed itself so it can grow and spread more rapidly.
About 98,000 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year alone, and more than 70,000 will die. The incidence of lung cancer in women has been increasing for decades, and the disease causes the most cancer-related deaths in females. New treatments are desperately needed, Goodglick said, a
|Contact: Kim Irwin|
University of California - Los Angeles