In Austria, more than 5,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Women over the age of 50 are particularly affected. Although changes, such as a breast lump, are harmless in many cases, women should see a doctor for any unusual changes. If breast cancer is detected and treated in time, the chances of a cure are good.
Researchers at the University of Innsbruck may have discovered a new method that could be used to treat breast cancer with drugs. Using a progesterone inhibitor could replace surgical procedures. This scientific work, which was published in the specialist journal “Genome Medicine”, focuses in particular on women with inherited gene mutations.
Drug instead of mastectomy
at breast cancer two major ones are known so far genesthe mutated lead to breast and often ovarian cancer in a high percentage of those affected, namely BRCA1 and BRCA2. In these women, the progesterone and estrogen levels are increased during the menstrual cycle, explains study leader Martin Widschwendter, professor for cancer prevention and screening at the University of Innsbruck, in a broadcast. Many carriers of these mutations decide at a young age to have their breast tissue, which is still healthy, surgically removed as a preventive measure. Actress Angelina Jolie, for example, had both of her breasts removed for this reason in 2013 and discussed it publicly. This has brought the genetic component of breast cancer into focus.
It is precisely at this increased progesterone level during the menstrual cycle that the researchers started by influencing it. “Progesterone leads to increased division of so-called progenitor cells in the breast tissue and makes them age faster.” An increased proportion of these aged and divided progenitor cells, in turn, significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer,” says the oncologist Widschwendter.
The results of the drug’s effectiveness were recorded by epigenetic monitoring. The proportion of old and therefore dangerous progenitor cells could be reduced and, accordingly, the risk of cancer was very likely reduced.