Breast Cancer Growth: Role of Hormones and Aromatase Inhibitors

Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, PhD Research Director of the Center of Excellence in Cancer Research The Paul L. Foster School of Medicine Texas Tech University Health Sciences Interview with:
Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, PhD
Basic Science Research Director of the Center of Excellence in Cancer Research.
The Paul L. Foster School of Medicine
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Lakshmanaswamy: Our study supports a growing body of research suggesting a safe and effective role for natural steroid hormones in treating postmenopausal breast cancer, with fewer detrimental side effects and an improved health profile than with standard anti-hormone therapies. Using a mouse model mimicking human breast cancer after menopause, we found that treatment with estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone was associated with greater physical activity, improved cognition, and better cardiovascular and bone health, which demonstrates the potential significance of hormone treatment in postmenopausal women.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Arumugam: The current treatment for women after hormone-sensitive breast cancer is estrogen-blocking aromatase inhibitors, a nearly opposite treatment to the hormone therapy we studied. We were surprised to find that not only did the right combination of hormones provide better outcomes in terms of cardiovascular and bone measures, but were also more effective against breast cancer.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Lakshmanaswamy: Aromatase inhibitors have been shown to initially reduce breast cancer tumors and are currently the standard of care for hormone-sensitive breast cancer. However, their effectiveness often declines over time and they may have adverse effects on cardiovascular health and osteoporosis. Many women also stop taking aromatase inhibitors due to their side effects. This study sought to provide an alternative to current treatments, and our results are promising. Natural hormones, in the right combination, provided a significant improvement in overall health in the mouse model.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Lakshmanaswamy: Our study results are promising and point to a better direction for breast cancer treatment research. The next step is to determine the hormone dose that is efficient and provides the maximum benefit with the fewest side effects, if any. Then human clinical trials will be needed to confirm our findings in the mouse model.


The role of hormones and aromatase inhibitors on breast tumor growth and general health in a postmenopausal mouse model

Arumugam A, Lissner EA, Lakshmanaswamy R.

Reprod Biol Endocrinol.
2014 Jul 15;12(1):66. [Epub ahead of print]