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Studying the role of progesterone and synthetic progesterone in breast cancer

  • Researcher: Professor Christine Clarke
  • Institution: The University of Sydney
  • Award Amount: £200,004 for 3 years from June 2013
  • Cancer Type: Breast Cancer
Studying the role of progesterone and synthetic progesterone in breast cancer
Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries.   It is essential for the development and function of the female breasts and reproductive system and has a wide range of effects in these tissues.  During the menopause some hormones, including progesterone, are no longer produced. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), used to reduce the symptoms of menopause, replaces these missing hormones, including a synthetic version of progesterone, called a progestin.  However, progestin in HRT increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.  Progesterone sticks to a molecule called a receptor (PR) within a cell.  There are two types of progesterone receptor, PRA and PRB, which are found in normal cells.  In the early stages of breast cancer there are much higher numbers of PRA and PRB in breast cancer cells. When progesterone sticks to PRA or PRB the receptor attaches itself to specific sequences of DNA and controls the activity of key genes.  The types of DNA sequences that PR binds to is also different in normal breast cells compared to cancerous cells.  Professor Clarke and her team have found that the DNA sequences are different again when progestins from HRT attach to the receptor. They plan to use their Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study well defined models of breast cancer and normal breast tissue to identify what causes PRA and PRB to interact differently with DNA in the breast, as well as studying the role of progestins from HRT in increasing the risk of breast cancer.
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