Around half of all breast cancer patients could one day benefit from having the cheap and widely-available female hormone progesterone added to their treatment, according to research published in Nature.
Tumours fuelled by the female hormone oestrogen are treated with drugs like tamoxifen to block oestrogen receptors, which cause cancer cells to grow. Women whose tumours have progesterone receptors as well are known to have a better outlook. But for decades scientists have been unable to pinpoint why. Now researchers have revealed how the progesterone receptor 'talks to' the oestrogen receptor in breast cancer cells to change their behaviour, ultimately slowing down tumour growth.
"This research helps explain why some breast cancer patients have a better outlook. Crucially, it provides a strong case for a clinical trial to investigate the potential benefit of adding progesterone to drugs that target the oestrogen receptor, which could improve treatment for the majority of hormone-driven breast cancers," the researchers said.
There are around 1,6 million new cases of breast cancer each year and this study shows how a cheap, safe, and widely available drug could potentially improve treatment for around half of all patients, the researchers concluded.