CNRCS Reports Latest Prostate Cancer Research to National Academy of Sciences

Research performed at the University of Houston Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS) recently was detailed in a publication appearing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). The publication, “Estrogen receptor β and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 6, a growth regulatory pathway that is lost in prostate cancer,” reported on the actions of nuclear receptors in prostate cancer.

“Much of our work is focused on estrogen receptors, a class of hormone receptors found in many human organs and cell types,” explained Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson, director of the Center. “We believe these receptors can be influential in the development of new drugs and treatments for forms of cancer, such as prostate cancer.”

The second most common cancer type among American men, prostate cancer occurs when prostate cells proliferate to the point where they can no longer be controlled by normal regulatory mechanisms and they begin to form tumors. Prostate growth is governed in part by the balance between androgen receptor and estrogen receptor β (ERβ) activation.

ERβ is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily of transcription factors, or DNA-binding proteins, and activated by the hormones 17β-estradiol and 3β-Adiol. It has been shown that, in the prostate, 3β-Adiol is the physiological ligand of ERβ. Gustafsson and his colleagues have demonstrated that an enzymatic reaction is initiated by 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 6 (17βHSD6). The result formation of 3β-Adiol via 17βHSD6 from the male sex hormone dihydrotestosterone, is an important growth regulatory pathway that is lost in prostate cancer.

“Our research indicates that 17βHSD6 should be further pursued as a possible drug target in prostate cancer,” said Gustafsson. “Our discovery of this 17βHSD6 role is the latest example of the potential to combat cancer through a better understanding of nuclear receptor signaling pathways.”

Established in 1914, PNAS is among most-cited multidisciplinary scientific research journals and reports on the progressive research of the Academy. The circulation reaches over 3,000 institutions in more than 60 countries, including more than 2,200 Academy members and more than 400 foreign associates.

Established in 2009, CNRCS is the centerpiece of the UH health initiative. Led by Gustafsson, a world-renowned expert in the field of nuclear receptors, CNRCS researchers are involved in many aspects of nuclear receptor research, all focused on understanding the roles of these receptors in health and disease. CNRCS researchers are working toward the goal of finding new treatments for an array of significant diseases including cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Working from the Center's world-class labs, CNRCS researchers combine interdisciplinary research and dynamic collaboration with the Texas Medical Center and industry partners.

For more details or to view the abstract, visit