Oestrogen regulation may reverse prostate cancer says study

In collaboration with the Press Association

Regulating the levels of oestrogen in men's bodies may reverse the progression of prostate cancer and prostate swelling, also called benign prostate hyperplasia (BHP), early-stage laboratory trials have suggested.

Oestrogen is usually thought of as a female sex hormone, but recent research has emphasised the role it plays in men's health.

Oestrogen carries out its effects by binding to molecules on the surface of cells called oestrogen receptors. Men have two types of oestrogen receptor, known as alpha and beta.

The new research was led by a team at Monash University in Melborne, Australia. They developed small molecules that could mimic the way oestrogen activates one receptor but not the other.

This allowed them to selectively turn on each receptor and find out what its function was.

Working in animal models, they found that activating the oestrogen receptor beta was beneficial and stopped the development of prostate hyperplasia. Activation of the alpha oestrogen receptor alpha was linked to malignancy.

"This study builds on previous research investigating the effect of oestrogen on prostate cells," said Hazel Nunn, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK.

"These are early days as the findings are based on laboratory research. But they do add to our understanding of the role of oestrogen in prostate growth and may help pave the way for new treatments for prostate cancer in the future."

The research was presented at the Society for Endocrinology conference, and has also been accepted for publication by the journal Endocrinology.