Advocacy in Action
A Novel Approach to Hormone-Positive Breast Cancer
By Betsy Crumity with editorial assistance from Pat Battaglia
As a member of the Coalition’s Advocacy Committee, I attended the 2022 Advocate Leadership Summit held by the National Breast Cancer Coalition.* After attending many workshops and presentations, I walked away with newfound hope in research. Surprisingly, I heard of research into something women and men have in common: testosterone.
During a question-and-answer period, I submitted a question to Simon Knott, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Associate Director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics at Cedars Sinai. I asked him to further explain his research on the role of testosterone in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer in women. Testosterone is the most predominant androgen, or male sex hormone, and it is present in both men and women. Female bodies convert testosterone and other androgens into female sex hormones.(1)
Dr. Knott’s laboratory studies human breast tumors using single cell profiling technologies that allow the tumor microenvironment to be dissected into its smallest parts for analysis. His most recent study, which was under way at the time of the Summit, has been completed. The final results were published on March 8, 2023, in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Genomics. Dr. Knott and his team reported on cellular changes they observed in transgender men undergoing gender-affirming androgen therapy. Noting the lower rates of breast cancer in transgender men, they found changes in breast cells that support the idea that androgens counteract estrogen. They concluded that androgens could potentially be used to prevent or even treat estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer. However, further study is needed.(2)
About 264,000 cases of female breast cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, while males receive 2,400 diagnoses in the same time frame.(3) With Dr. Knott’s unique approach, we may be one step nearer to narrowing the gap in breast cancer incidence between women and men.
*The Breast Cancer Coalition is an independent, local organization unaffiliated with any national group, including the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Many of our goals are the same; thus, we support NBCC’s public policy agenda.
This story appeared in the Autumn 2023 newsletter, Voices of the Ribbon.