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Suppressing Hormones Can Improve Success Rate of Melanoma Treatment


Written by Professor Anna Gray, Updated on August 7th, 2022
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Unfortunately, cancer is still on the rise in the United States these days. Skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the US, with melanoma being the worst. The success rate for melanoma treatment is different between men and women and it appears that the reason could be due to hormones. Oncologist Miles Andrews co-led some breakthrough research that seems to uncover the difference in treatment outcomes.

Blocking Hormones Leads to Better Treatment Outcomes

Dr. Miles Andrews and his research team seem to have found something very interesting. Even though we believe that ensuring you have adequate levels of hormones, and definitely not too little, it looks like suppressing the male sex hormone, testosterone, leads to better outcomes in targeted melanoma treatment. They were able to block the natural hormone using medication.

Inhibiting testosterone, which is naturally found in much higher levels in men than in women, can significantly increase melanoma cells’ sensitivity and help the patient get through any treatment resistance. Dr. Andrews states, “In this study we looked at how the delivery of BRAF inhibitors, a targeted treatment of melanoma, might be more effective, given that we know therapeutic resistance is common and innovative treatment strategies are needed.”

The doctors noticed that in a clinical trial using BRAF-inhibitor therapy, the women had better responses to the treatment. The doctors studied tumor samples of both men and women undergoing treatment and noted that the higher activity of androgens in the men could well be the reason the treatment response was not as effective.

Once they started their own trial, blocking androgens, the melanoma cells became more sensitive to the BRAF-inhibitor therapy.

Blocking Androgen Action Could Aid Immunotherapy

This tactic could possibly also be used with immunotherapy, where treatment resistance is also an issue. Dr. Andrews says, “We can see that manipulating male sex hormones might also enhance the delivery of immunotherapy treatment, resulting in less melanoma recurrence, longer durations of cancer controlled, and overall better patients outcomes.”

Dr. Andrews believes this kind of hormone manipulation may be able to help many other patients with a “wide range of cancers.” The cure for cancer is not here yet, but at least we are finding other tools to help us win the battle in the meantime!

Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer

We already use hormone therapy to treat breast cancer, actually. Some types of breast cancer are affected by estrogen and/or progesterone, two female sex hormones. The cancer cells have receptors that interact with both of these hormones, helping the cancerous cells to grow. Hormone treatments stop the hormones from attaching to the receptors.

Most of the time, endocrine therapy is used after surgery, to keep the cancer from coming back and is taken for 5 years or more. This type of therapy can also be used if the cancer has come back and even if its spread to other parts of the body.

Tamoxifen is one of the more well-known therapies used for this purpose and it is one that blocks estrogen from interacting with the cancer cells.

As we’ve said on our website before, it’s imperative for men and women to find endocrine equilibrium, or a proper balance, of their hormones. If their situation requires the blocking of certain hormones for awhile, even though those hormones are normally very beneficial, then their equilibrium is just different for them when compared to other patients.

There is still so much to learn about the endocrine system and how to restore or maintain hormone balance. Follow our page to learn more about hormone therapy and to keep up with the latest hormone research.

Reference

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