At least 11 common cancers may be partially spurred by the presence of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), according to research conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research.
The findings suggest that cancer treatments that target FSH within cancerous tumors may serve as a viable method for both detecting early signs of cancer and treating the illness.
FSH is a receptor that is normally present within the blood vessels of reproductive organs. In woman, it contributes to the growth of ovarian follicles and production of estrogen. In men, the hormone assists in the production of spermatozoa.
Among organs outside the reproductive system, FSH is typically absent. However, analysis conducted by the Mount Sinai team reveals that FSH also pops up in blood vessels of certain types of cancer. The 11 cancer types linked to FSH include:
• Breast cancer
• Prostate cancer
• Colon cancer
• Pancreatic cancer
• Bladder cancer
• Kidney cancer
• Lung cancer
• Liver cancer
• Stomach cancer
• Testicular cancer
• Ovarian cancer
Interestingly, the presence of FSH was identified across all 11 cancers regardless of stage of the tumor. This fact indicates that FSH serves as a biomarker that can be used to facilitate early diagnosis.
According to the study’s lead researcher, Aurelian Radu, “This new tumor marker may be used to improve cancer detection. Tumor imaging agents that bind to the new marker could be injected in the vasculature and would make visible early tumors located anywhere in the body,” said Aurelian Radu of Mount Sinai, the study’s lead author.
These findings are based on research that examined biopsies of more than 1,300 cancer patients.
Beyond early detection, Radu and colleagues are hopeful that FSH can also be used as a successful target for treatment. Since the receptor is linked to growth of tumor blood cells, treatments targeting FSH may assist in:
• Blocking the formation of new blood vessels
• Inhibiting blood flow to tumors via coagulation
• Destroying existing tumor blood vessels
In all three cases, the desired outcome is a reduction of oxygen flow to the cancerous tumor. Ultimately, this outcome could result in reduced growth, shrinkage or altogether elimination of a tumor.
One major advantage of using FSH as a target for cancer treatment is that it is absent in most normal tissues. This means that FSH-related drugs may result in fewer side effects than current chemotherapy treatments.
Before treatment avenues that relate to FSH production can begin, the research team concedes that additional research is needed. Additionally, the team reiterates the need to search for the role of FSH beyond the 11 cancers already studied.
The Mount Sinai research was published in the October 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.