Magazine article Drug Topics

Estrogen: It's More Than Just a Female Hormone

Magazine article Drug Topics

Estrogen: It's More Than Just a Female Hormone

Article excerpt

A newly discovered pathway may explain why estrogen is benefiicial to the bone and the cardiovascular system yet has the potential to cause unfavorable effects in female reproductive tissues.

Na N. Yang, Ph.D., a molecular biologist from Lilly Research Laboratories, Indianapolis, explained that there are multiple estrogens in the body that can regulate multiple tasks. She found that estrogen signals genes via different pathways, which change depending on the target tissue. Yang's research was recently published in the journal Science.

Commenting on the significance of the data, Mike B. Sporn, M.D., professor of pharmacology and medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, told the audience at a telephone press briefing, "This is a real milestone. I think the overall significance is that the research gives us a new way of looking at what estrogen is, what estrogen receptors might be, and how new compounds like raloxifene interact with them to provide potential benefits."

Yang explained that raloxifene can mimic some estrogens in some pathways and block other estrogens in other pathways. Preliminary data indicate that it confers some of the beneficial effects of estrogen, such as the prevention of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease; unlike estrogen, however, it does not increase the risk of breast or uterine cancer, she said. Raloxifene is a second-generation selective estrogen response modifier (SERM). Tamoxifen, an antiestrogen used for the treatment of breast cancer, is an example of a first-generation SERM. …

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