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Regulating oestrogen in men may lead to treatment for prostate cancer and benign prostate hyperplasia

A special type of oestrogen-regulating drug may reverse the progression of prostate cancer and prostate swelling (benign prostate hyperplasia, or BHP), according to a group from Monash University, Melbourne presenting its results at the Society for Endocrinology conference in London.

Oestrogens are normally thought of as a female hormone, but recently scientists have found that oestrogens have vital roles to play in men’s health; without estrogens at all men are tall and overweight and develop diabetes. Now scientists are beginning to realise that oestrogen also has a major role to play in the development of the prostate gland and may contribute to common male problems, prostate cancer and BHP.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in British men, with more than 30,000 new cases diagnosed every year. 43% of British men over the age of 65 suffer from BHP.

There are two types of receptors for the hormone oestrogen, oestrogen-receptor-alpha and oestrogen receptor-beta. A group of scientists led by Professor Gail Risbridger (Monash University, Melbourne) have tested compounds that selectively activate one but not the other receptor. Thus, they can turn on one receptor eg oestrogen receptor alpha without affecting oestrogen receptor beta and vice versa.

Working in animals, they found that regulating the oestrogen receptor beta was beneficial and stopped the development of prostate hyperplasia. Whereas the bad effects of estrogens are due to activation of the oestrogen receptor alpha and are linked to malignancy.

Presenting her results at the conference in London, Professor Risbridger said

“We still have to try the drugs in humans, but so far these are very promising results. This work holds out the possibility that we may be able to help patients with benign disease as well as men with prostate cancer, by using these designer drugs.

Ideally, we would want to promote the good effects of oestrogen receptor beta and block the bad effects of oestrogen receptor alpha.

It's interesting work, and we are pleased that preclinical testing may translate into real benefits for patients”.

The work is being presented at the Society for Endocrinology conference, but it has also just been accepted for publication in the journal Endocrinology; for the abstract of the Endocrinology article, see:

Jo Thurston | alfa
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