Melatonin May Slow Tumor Growths in Breast Cancer

First Posted: Jan 28, 2014 01:06 PM EST

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body's sleep and wake cycles. Now, medical researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have determined that melatonin may have the potential to help slow the growths of certain breast cancer tumors. Although the study is still in its early stages, the findings have been promising so far.

The study was published in the PLoS One journal online and can be found here. Its findings suggest that melatonin may inhibit tumor growth, inhibit harmful cell production and block the formation of new blood vessels in ER-negative breast cancer models.

Melatonin can be taken as a man-made supplement to help with sleep troubles (among many other issues), but it is also a hormone naturally produced by the brain's pineal gland in response to darkness. The American Cancer Society found that, when combined with specific anti-cancer drugs, melatonin may help suppress the growth of certain cancer cells.

"These early stage research results with the melatonin drug in a triple-negative breast cancer animal models achieved in our lab has not been seen anywhere else," says study co-author Adarsh Shankar, a research assistant in the Department of Radiology at Henry Ford Hospital, found in this EurekAlert! article.

Melatonin may be effective at mitigating the effectiveness of angiogenesis in ER-negative breast cancer. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels, and once a cancerous tumor exceeds a few millimeters in diameter, it triggers the progression of angiogenesis in the cancerous cell. This spread cancer throughout the affected area.

The study was conducted on mice and although positive results were shown in terms of suppressing and slowing the tumor growths, the study's authors acknowledge that the research is still in its very early stages. The results are not yet ready to be translated for patient use.

To read more about the experiment, visit this EurekAlert! article.

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