FEB 11, 2021 8:00 AM PST

Seeing if Hormone Therapy Will Work for Breast Cancer Patients

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Only around half of the women diagnosed with breast cancer will benefit from hormonal therapy, a cancer treatment that adds, blocks, or removes specific hormones to stall the growth and spread of breast cancer cells. The women who respond to these therapies are hormone receptor-positive, meaning that the breast tumor cells carry functional receptors for estrogen or progesterone or both. 

The problem is that until now, there is no simple and reliable way to determine whether a patient falls into the responder or non-responder category.

“If breast cancer in a patient is estrogen receptor-positive, doctors will usually recommend hormone therapy even though they know it will only work for slightly more than half the patients,” explained radiology expert Farrokh Dehdashti from Washington University in St. Louis.

“When hormone therapy works, it’s typically quite effective, and it has milder side effects than some other therapies, and that’s why oncologists and patients want to try it first. But we need to narrow down who is likely to benefit, and there really hasn’t been a reliable test to accomplish that.”

Dehdashti and colleagues have published a study in Nature Communications that describes a novel imaging procedure that could soon allow health care professionals to “see” whether a patient would stand to benefit from hormone therapy.

The test leverages a unique relationship between the estrogen and progesterone receptors. If the estrogen receptors are active, once stimulated, they trigger the breast cancer cell to react by increasing the number of progesterone receptors on the cell surface.

The team collaborated with chemist John Katzenellenbogen from the University of Illinois, who created an imaging agent that can quantify how many progesterone receptors are being expressed on the breast tumor. This agent, called 21-[18F] fluorofuranylnorprogesterone (FFNP), latches on to the progesterone receptor and can be imaged using a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner.

This newly-developed imaging technology was validated in a cohort of breast cancer and demonstrated that the technique could be used to predict which of them would respond to hormone therapy accurately.

“We observed 100% agreement between the response to estrogen challenge and the response to hormone therapy, even though the participants were on a variety of treatment regimens,” said Dehdashti. 

“This method should work for any therapy that depends on a functional estrogen receptor, and it could provide valuable information to oncologists deciding how best to treat their patients.”

 

 

Sources: Nature Communications, Washington University in St. Louis.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
DEC 10, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Gut Feeling: Microbiome Reveals Toxic Chemical Exposure in Kids
DEC 10, 2020
Gut Feeling: Microbiome Reveals Toxic Chemical Exposure in Kids
A study by Duke University researchers has revealed that children’s gut microbiomes hold clues as to their possibl ...
DEC 23, 2020
Cancer
A Combination of Photo and Sonodynamic Therapies Could Assist in Treating Brain Cancer
DEC 23, 2020
A Combination of Photo and Sonodynamic Therapies Could Assist in Treating Brain Cancer
Brain cancer is an incredible challenge for modern medicine. Most drugs don’t make it past the blood-brain barrier ...
DEC 31, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Silent Mice Drive Autism Gene Discovery
DEC 31, 2020
Silent Mice Drive Autism Gene Discovery
Around 1 in 54 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, a broad range of conditions tha ...
FEB 23, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
New Insight Into Genetic Basis of IBD From African-American Patients
FEB 23, 2021
New Insight Into Genetic Basis of IBD From African-American Patients
The small variations in the genome that lead to differences in biology, including risk for diseases, can't be assumed to ...
MAR 02, 2021
Cardiology
Creating a Light Switch in the Heart to Regulate Heart Rate
MAR 02, 2021
Creating a Light Switch in the Heart to Regulate Heart Rate
Often when it is dark, we go for a flashlight or our phone to see where we are going. What if I told you that is much th ...
MAR 09, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
AI Creates Space for Equality in Pain Management
MAR 09, 2021
AI Creates Space for Equality in Pain Management
Pain is experienced more intensely among certain groups of people. Indeed, studies have shown that individuals from mino ...
Loading Comments...