Endometrial cancer is a common and hormonally driven tumor. Progesterone, which exerts its effects through the progesterone receptor (PR), can be an effective therapy for subsets of endometrial cancer patients. Due to limited understanding of pathobiology of endometrial cancer, hormonal therapy is not widely embraced as a treatment option. With progression to cancer, endometrial PR signaling may change resulting in progesterone resistance. The molecular mechanisms underlying progesterone insensitivity are unknown. The overall goal of this proposal is to elucidate the pathobiology and mechanisms that cause progesterone resistance in endometrial carcinoma and to discover strategies that can broaden the clinical application of progesterone therapy. This proposal is based on following innovative observations from my laboratory: 1) Epithelial specific loss of PTEN in a physiologically relevant mouse model results in endometrial tumors that closely recapitulate human disease; 2) tumors resulting from epithelial loss of PTEN are progesterone sensitive while epithelial loss of PTEN with activation of Kras results in progesterone resistant tumors; 3) Epigenetic silencing of PR is detected in the stroma of progesterone resistant mouse tumors; 4) Stromal specific deletion of PR converts a hormone sensitive to a hormone refractory endometrial cancer; 5 ) Add-back of exogenous PR in the stroma of mouse hormone refractory tumors, sensitizes them to progesterone therapy. Our central hypotheses are that (a) silencing of PR in the tumor stroma is the primary mechanism leading to hormone resistance in human endometrial cancers and (b) stromal PR expression or signaling is a valid biomarker in prospective identification of patients with hormone sensitive tumors.
Specific Aims : 1) Determine if signaling through stromal and/or epithelial ER? is essential for the anti-tumor effects of progesterone; 2) Test if pharmacologic restoration of PR in the tumor stroma sensitizes progesterone refractory mouse endometrial tumors to hormonal therapy; 3) Develop an in vivo hormone refractory human endometrial tumor model; 4) Identify biomarkers of response to hormonal therapy in human endometrial tumors. Being a physician scientist, here we plan to (a) determine if stromal PR expression is a biomarker for identifying progesterone sensitive human cancers, (b) identify independent biomarkers based on transcriptome analysis of progesterone sensitive vs. resistant tumors and (c) determine if PR is methylated in stroma of hormone refractory human tumors. These results will identify biomarkers predictive of hormonal sensitivity and define mechanisms by which human endometrial tumors become hormone refractory. In addition to gaining mechanistic insight about the pathobiology of endometrial cancer, another innovative aspect of our proposal involves translation of a disease-relevant mouse model to the analysis of patient samples using strategies pioneered by our team. The long term goal is to discover much needed but currently unavailable biomarkers of response to hormonal therapy and develop novel strategies to sensitize hormone refractory tumors to progesterone therapy.
Endometrial cancer is a hormonally regulated tumor of the uterus and the number one gynecologic cancer in the United States. Some endometrial cancer patients may benefit from therapy with a hormone called progesterone, but this treatment is not widely embraced because currently physicians cannot reliably identify women who may have a favorable response to this drug. Results from this proposal will lead to the knowledge and technology required for selection of subsets of women who can benefit from progesterone treatment: a well-tolerated, fertility sparing, non-radical option for their endometrial cancer.
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