Pregnancy Protein Prevents Breast Cancer?
Reported December 28, 2009
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Hormones produced during pregnancy induce a protein called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) that directly inhibits the growth of breast cancer and may serve as a viable agent for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.
“Hormones in pregnancy, such as estrogen, all induce AFP, which directly inhibits the growth of breast cancer,” lead researcher Herbert Jacobson, Ph.D., of the Center for Immunology and Microbial Diseases in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Albany Medical College, N.Y, was quoted as saying.
“The body has a natural defense system against breast cancer,” he added. “AFP needs to be safely harnessed and developed into a drug that can be used to protect women from breast cancer.”
The liver and yolk sac of a fetus normally produce AFP. Jacobson and colleagues sought to determine whether administering pregnancy hormones to carcinogen-exposed rats led them to produce AFP, which in turn produces the protective effect of pregnancy, even though the rats were not pregnant.
Results showed that treatment with estrogen plus progesterone, estrogen alone or human chorionic gonadotropin reduced the incidence of mammary cancers in rats. Furthermore, the researchers noted that each of these treatments elevated the serum level of AFP and that directly inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells growing in culture, suggesting that these hormones of pregnancy are preventing breast cancer through their induction of AFP.
SOURCE: Cancer Prevention Research, November 24, 2009