Scientific studies into oxytocin, a hormone that produces feelings of contentment after an orgasm, have inspired researchers from The Australian National University to investigate new therapies for small-cell lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer death in Australia.

Professor Chris Easton, PhD student Ms Lucy Ca and colleagues are researching into ways to reduce the small-cell lung cancer death rate by creating new mediations that target the biology behind the disease. Their research has been published in Medicinal Chemistry Communications.

Professor Easton, said:

“Given that one in every 28 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer and it is the most common cause of cancer death, there is a real need to develop new pharmaceuticals to treat this disease. Although it is still early days our results are very promising.”

The scientists are researching PAM, a type of enzyme which activates several key peptide hormones, including calcitonin (promotes cell proliferation), and oxytocin, known as the love hormone. Oxytocin gives a feeling of contentment after an orgasm. Prior studies have demonstrated that peptide hormone imbalances cause some cancers, asthma and inflammatory diseases.

Ms Cao said:

“Increased levels of calcitonin are correlated with poor survival rates in small-cell lung cancer patients. So we are working to reduce the levels of calcitonin, particularly through controlling the activity of the PAM enzyme.”

The scientists have managed to model the effect of their new chemicals on small-cell lung cancer cells by using a novel cell culture that they developed for this study.

Professor Easton said:

“We were excited to find that a number of our compounds are very effective in reducing the activity of PAM and decreasing calcitonin levels. As we look to take these compounds into formal clinical trials we hope to provide a sexy new drug treatment to improve and extend the lives of many lung cancer sufferers.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist