By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
A latest study shows that a hormone receptor normally confined to the reproductive organs is found in malignant tumors in many parts of the body. Researchers from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City explained that this may mean a new target for the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The study was published in the latest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
They studied tumor tissue samples from 1,336 men and women with 11 common cancers, including prostate, breast, colon, pancreatic, lung, liver and ovarian and found the presence of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) receptor in the blood vessel cells of the tumors. Normally this receptor is not found on blood vessels with the exception of the reproductive organs, where it is present in much lower concentrations than in tumors, said the American and French researchers.
The team found that activation of the FSH receptor contributes to the signaling of a protein (VEGF) that stimulates the growth of blood vessels, including those in tumors. Blocking the action of the FSH receptor may also block the signaling of VEGF. This may mean cutting of the blood supply to the tumor, effectively killing it.
Study lead author Aurelian Radu, an assistant professor of developmental and regenerative biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine said, “This new tumor marker may be used to improve cancer detection…Tumor imaging agents that bind to the new marker could be injected in the [body's blood vessel system] and would make visible early tumors located anywhere in the body using magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, or ultrasound imaging.” Additionally new treatments “can be developed that will block the tumor blood supply, either by inhibiting formation of new blood vessels, blocking the blood flow by coagulation, or by destroying the existing tumor vessels.”
Nicolae Ghinea, a French researcher who was part of the team, said an expansion of the research could take years, but “one can imagine a universal treatment for a universal marker.”
Kairbaan Hodivala-Dilke at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry's Institute of Cancer supported this study saying, “It's certainly a good marker, and could be especially useful in surgery, which is a bit hit-and-miss at the moment.” She speculated that with the use of color-labeled antibodies to highlight the edges of a tumor could enable surgeons to “cut along the dotted line”.