The study, conducted by Urszula Iwaniec, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences at OSU, along with OSU professor Russell Turner and researchers from the Mayo Clinic, examined the effect of 2-methoxyestradiol (meth-oxy-es-tra-di-ol), or 2ME2, on the bone. 2ME2 is derived from estrogen and works by suppressing tumour growth and blocking the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumours.
In breast cancer, the cancer commonly lodges in the bone, destroying it in a debilitating painful process called osteolysis, which can lead to bone fractures and make patients feel tired, or even lose consciousness. The researchers studied the effect of 2-methoxyestradiol (meth-oxy-es-tra-di-ol), or 2ME2, on the bone.
"We were expecting the drug to have an effect, but we were not expecting to have as big of an effect as it did," Iwaniec said. In studies of other cancers, 2ME2 has been shown to induce cancer cells to self-destruct. Otherwise, tumour cells evade this process allowing them to continually divide and spread throughout the body.
Researchers described 2ME2 as an 'attractive candidate for controlling tumour growth, metastasis to bone and bone disorders,' such as osteolysis caused by the spread of breast cancer. "This is potentially of very substantial importance because this agent has few of the unpleasant side effects of most chemotherapy drugs and targets both bone resorption and the cancerous tumour cells," Turner said. "It really is the first agent that has been clearly demonstrated to do that," he added.
The researchers found that 2ME2 could effectively target breast cancer cells, prevent the spread of breast cancer cells to bone and protect bone from osteolysis, which is a type of bone metastasis in which the bone is eaten away by cancer cells. Turner said that the current drugs that are used to prevent bone fractures and bone pain in cancer patients are not effective in targeting the tumour cells.
"Often, treatments that are good for cancer are bad for the bones. 2ME2 appears to be capable of treating both. If you had a treatment that both reduced the risk of bone cancer and osteoporosis, it would be extremely significant," he said.
The study will be published in the November issue of Cancer Research.