A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri finds that hormone replacement therapies could worsen and help breast cancer spread. According to reports, the findings of the new study suggest that natural and synthetic progestins are associated with the increased production of certain breast cancer cells, which act like stem cells in the human body.
According to a recent report by Science Daily, the new study finds that women who take hormone replacement therapies are likely to have a higher risk or worsen symptoms of breast cancer. Hormone replacement therapies including medications that contain female hormones are usually used as a substitute for the hormones the body is no longer able to produce.
They are also often prescribed to reduce the symptoms of menopause in women. The new study has now found a link between these natural and synthetic progestins and the production of a particular type of cancer cells that imitates stem cells in the human body.
The researchers believe that the findings of the new study could further assist scientists in their struggle towards targeting these cells that cause breast cancer to grow, spread and metastasize in other areas. It may also help medical practitioners to identify immunotherapies to inhibit the growth of breast cancer, as reported by Eurekalert.
“In previous studies, we have shown that both natural and synthetic progestins accelerate the development of breast cancer and increase their metastasis to lymph nodes. Our laboratory is committed to identifying the cell mechanisms that bring about increased breast cancer risks.
“Recently, our research focused on special cells – which are called ‘cancer stem cell-like cells’ – that induce aggressive tumor growth, metastasis, and cancer recurrence,” a Professor in Tumor Angiogenesis and professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, Salman Hyder said.
While conducting the study, the researchers ran a series of tests in which they utilized human breast cancer cells that are hormone-responsive to examine the effects of progestin on the cell markers that are commonly found in persons with breast cancers. The researchers found that the natural and synthetic progestins increased the protein expression of CD44 significantly.
It is reported that this is a molecule associated with cell proliferation, cell communication as well as migration. Furthermore, the authors discovered that the mere presence of progestins made the components to act like cancer stem cells. They added that these cancer stem cell-like cells have the ability to renew themselves and also create identical copies of themselves, thus proliferate exponentially. However, the authors found that the rare subset of breast cancer cells was actually enriched by progestin.
In conclusion, the study found that exposure to natural and synthetic progestins could further lead to the development of these cancer stem cell-like cells. They highly increase the possibility of resistance to therapies and high risk of metastasis.