Fish open new doors in the fight against cancer

PORT ARANSAS, Texas - It began when a research professor gave a talk at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute Advisory Council meeting heard by Jack and Valerie Guenther and Ronald and Karen Herrmann. He related the story of how a small fish is leading the fight to understand the role of hormone receptors in cancer. The two couples are giving Dr. Thomas the support he needs through a combined generous grant of $250,000, for the next step in his research.

The professor is Dr. Peter Thomas with the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, and when he speaks about his research there is passion in his voice. It is understandable given that he discovered a new class of hormone receptors called membrane receptors (mRs). The first he found was the mR for progesterone in spotted seatrout ovaries, which led to the discovery of two additional mRs for estrogen and androgen.  Each of these receptors is found on the outside of the cell wall and each has also been identified in humans by searching the human genome.  Dr. Thomas’s research has shown that the estrogen and progesterone mRs play important roles in premature birth and breast cancer in humans.   

His most recent discovery, the androgen mR and subject of this gift causes breast and prostate cancer cells to die when activated. The next phase of research is finding ways to selectively activate the androgen mR and thus new treatments to help kill cancer cells.