Tamoxifen may treat myeloproliferative neoplasms – a type of blood disorder for which there is currently no cure
This discovery has a potential application in the treatment of certain blood disorders for which there is currently no cure. The study was led by Dr. Simon Méndez-Ferrer of the CNIC, working in partnership with the laboratories of Doctors Jurg Schwaller and Radek Skoda of the University Hospital in Basel (Switzerland). The study’s authors have demonstrated in mice that tamoxifen, a drug already approved and widely used for the treatment of breast cancer, blocks the symptoms and the progression of a specific group of blood disorders known as myeloproliferative neoplasms.
Dr. Méndez-Ferrer explains that scientists have known for some time that men have a higher risk than women of developing leukemia: “We didn’t know the causes off this different incidence of leukemia between men and women, but sex hormones like estrogen could at least partly explain these differences.” Although estrogens were known to regulate some types of blood cells, very little was known about their influence on blood stem cells, including those that cause myeloproliferative neoplasms.
From this starting point, the researchers discovered an important practical application. “In this study we demonstrate that tamoxifen has specific effects on certain cells in the bone marrow, the hematopoietic stem cells and their immediate descendants, known as multipotent progenitors,” explains study author Abel Sánchez-Aguilera.
This study suggests that the blood stem cells (pink for female, blue for male) that, when altered, produce excessive blood cells (diseases called neoplasms) can be killed by female sex hormones. This finding potentially explains why these diseases and related cancers are more common in men than in women. The approved drug tamoxifen, whose chemical structure resembles female sex hormones and has been used in the picture to depict the feminine symbol (pink), can be used to block the development of blood neoplasms in male and female mice.
Credit: Andrés García-García