Cancer researchers have discovered that metabolites of natural estrogens can react with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to cause specific damage that initiates the series of events leading to breast, prostate and other human cancers. This understanding of a common mechanism of cancer initiation could result in cancer prevention and in better assessment of cancer risk.
The researchers will present their findings at the 81st annual meeting of the Southwestern and Rocky Mountain Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (SWARM-AAAS) on Friday, April 7, at the University of Tulsa, in Tulsa, Okla.
The symposium - "Catechol Estrogen Quinones as Initiators of Breast and other Human Cancers" - will be led by Drs. Ryszard Jankowiak of the Department of Chemistry, Kansas State University, and Ercole Cavalieri of the Eppley Cancer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center.
"We have a novel approach to cancer. We know the initiating step," said Dr. Cavalieri. "We think prevention of cancer is a problem we can solve by eliminating this initiating step. Estrogens can induce cancer when natural mechanisms of protection do not work properly in our body, and the estrogen quinones are able to react with DNA. In fact, if these protections are insufficient, due to genetic, lifestyle or environmental influences, then cancer can result.
"Now that we have the basic knowledge about a unifying mechanism of cancer initiation, we have a greater sense of urgency to assess people at risk and, at the same time, begin prevention by using specific natural compounds."
Dr. Cavalieri will discuss a unifying mechanism in the initiation of cancer. He will describe how the catechol estrogen quinones react with DNA to produce specific mutations that may trigger breast, prostate and other human cancers and show how the results of recent studies give rise to targets for preventing the disease.
"We've known about these catechol estrogen quinones for a long time, through many different studies that we've done, but our most recent results have been quite decisive," said Dr. Eleanor Rogan of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "It's very big news. From here, we will use the information to ultimately try to prevent breast and prostate cancer."