Why are drugs which interfere with the levels of certain hormones in the body used to treat breast and prostate cancer?

cancerThe first scientific observation about breast cancer was made in 1896 when it was noted that the disease sometimes regressed if the ovaries were removed. Eventually this connection was understood in terms of estrogen, the female hormone produced by the ovaries. Some types of breast cancer cells are stimulated to divide by estrogen and therefore blocking this effect constitutes a form of treatment. Many anti-estrogen drugs have been tried with various degrees of effectiveness. Tamoxifen is perhaps the best known of these medications. Prostate cancer cells are also known to be stimulated by hormones, in this case by androgens, the male sex hormones which are produced mostly in the testes. It has long been known that eunuchs do not develop prostate cancer because removal of the testes lowers the level of male hormones in the blood. Indeed, prostate cancer is sometimes treated by surgical removal of the testes. Drugs known as anti-androgens constitute the pharmaceutical treatment of this disease.


Joe Schwarcz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.