(NaturalNews) When men with advanced prostate cancer are treated with hormone therapy, the cancer usually stops growing for a year, maybe two. But then the disease often begins to grow again, and mainstream doctors have few if any options left to try to help.
So why did the hormone treatment work for a while and then stop? According to findings recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the explanation may be unexpectedly simple: the very drugs given to men to fight their prostate cancer actually spur some cancer cells to grow.
The new study, headed by Chawnshang Chang, PhD, director of the George Whipple Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues, suggests the androgen receptor, through which male hormones like testosterone work, turns out to be far more versatile than scientists realized. Specifically, a common form of hormone therapy for prostate cancer works by blocking the androgen receptor. And Dr. Chang's team found that it was true that depriving the male body of testosterone this way can at times stop cancer in the short term by preventing some cells in the prostate from growing. But, unfortunately, they also discovered that blocking the receptor can actually cause a revving up of other prostate cell growth and can lead to a proliferation of cancer cells down the road.
While the findings are based on both laboratory studies and in experiments with mice, there's plenty of reason to be concerned that androgen receptor blocking therapy could be putting men with prostate cancer at heightened risk for spread of the disease instead of a cure.
The truth about blocking male hormones and emerging cancer
"When a man receives hormone therapy, initially the treatment works well, and his PSA (prostate specific antigen) level goes down," urologist Edward Messing, MD, an author of the paper, said in a media statement. "But inevitably, the PSA will start climbing again, and that is usually the first sign that the treatment is beginning to fail. It's a sign that the cancer in the prostate is making a comeback."
"The androgen receptor acts differently in different cells in prostate tissue," Dr. Chang said in the media release. "It's always been assumed that blocking the androgen receptor will stop all prostate cells from growing, but we have found that that's not the case. Since current treatment acts non-specifically on all the cells having androgen receptors in the prostate, blocking the androgen receptor will give mixed results."
Bottom line: It turns out that when common cancer drugs are used to block hormone receptors, they "turn off" epithelial cells, which form the membranous tissue covering internal organs. By doing this, these drugs remove one of the body's natural protections that prevent prostate cancer cells from spreading in the first place. The result? Cancer cells are more likely to metastasize and invade other tissues.
In addition to potentially causing prostate cancer to eventually spread, hormone treatment for prostate cancer comes loaded with a host of side effects including loss of muscle mass, impotency, brittle bones, weight gain, memory loss and hot flashes.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.