Reporting in Cancer Research, scientists say high levels of Aromatase is associated with more aggressive disease and lower survival rates in women over 65.

Higher levels of aromatase, an enzyme that naturally makes estrogen from androgen, is linked to more aggressive disease and lower survival rates in women over 65 with Stage I or II lung cancer, report  researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC).

“All indications suggest that this is a very powerful prognostic marker that lets us predict which patients have a higher likelihood of prolonged survival versus death from lung cancer,” says Lee Goodglick, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine, a JCCC researcher, and senior author of the study.

Based on previous research done in JCCC labs, scientists knew that estrogen played a role in lung cancer growth, much like it does in breast cancer. In animals models, the investigators reportedly showed that either estrogen or aromatase triggered the growth of human lung cancer tumors.

The team then looked retrospectively at lung cancer tumor samples from more than 750 men and women seen at UCLA and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center using tissue microarrays. They report that in women 65 and over, higher aromatase levels were associated with more aggressive disease and a greater risk of death.

The study appears in the November 1 issue of Cancer Research.

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