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Estrogen may be key factor in women’s lung cancer

By on December 27, 2019

first_imgWASHINGTON – Lung cancer acts differently in women than in men, and major new studies are exploring whether estrogen is a key reason – and whether harnessing the hormone might help fight the No. 1 cancer killer. The gender link may sound surprising. Ask women what cancer they worry most about, and surveys show breast cancer consistently tops the list, while lung cancer is seldom mentioned. But lung cancer is increasingly a women’s problem. It will kill more than 162,000 people this year – 72,000 of them women. Breast, ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers combined kill fewer than 72,000 women a year. While male deaths from lung cancer have been dropping since 1991, women’s death rates are stubbornly holding steady. Much of the difference is attributed to gender variations in smoking, lung cancer’s main cause. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2But consider: Women tend to get different kinds of lung cancer than men get. While it’s unclear if women are at greater risk of developing the disease, some research suggests they may absorb more cancer-causing chemicals from cigarettes and become sick after smoking less. Among people who never smoked, more women than men are diagnosed with lung cancer. On the other hand, women tend to survive lung cancer slightly better than men do. And some of the newest lung cancer drugs, Tarceva and Iressa, seem to work more often in women. Teasing out the biology behind the gender differences could lead to improved treatment for everyone, says Dr. Kathy Albain, a lung cancer specialist at Loyola University Health System. She is heading a National Cancer Institute-funded study that is recruiting 720 newly diagnosed lung cancer patients to examine what hormones, genes or other molecular factors explain why lung cancer behaves differently in men and women, smokers and nonsmokers. “We’re learning what’s going on in the lung, and whether or not this is a real thing that can be exploited for cancer treatment,” she says. Estrogen already is a leading suspect. Researchers are just starting to explore the hormone’s role in lung cancer, cautions University of Pittsburgh pharmacologist Jill Siegfried, a pioneer in the field. But two provocative studies are getting under way: Siegfried’s research suggests estrogen may act as a fuel for lung tumors, just as it does for many breast tumors, and that blocking estrogen with the same drugs that breast cancer patients use might work in the lungs. So a 120-patient study in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles will test whether women fare better when given the anti-estrogen drug Faslodex on top of the lung cancer drug Tarceva. Why that combination? Estrogen receptors, or docking ports, in lung tumors seem to switch on a cancer growth factor that Tarceva specifically targets. The second study, involving 600 women around the country, tests an experimental drug called Xyotax that may need estrogen to work. Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics Inc. reformulated the older cancer drug Taxol. In three large studies, 45 percent of women given this new Xyotax survived lung cancer for a year, compared with just 25 percent of women given standard drugs or men given either regimen. Estrogen seems to activate an enzyme inside tumors that unlocks Xyotax’s cancer-fighting ingredient from its covering, explains Siegfried.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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