Lung cancer breakthrough yields new love hormone insights

Scientists have discovered new ways to regulate hormones that stimulate cancer growth. Now those insights could be used to control other hormones, such as oxytocin, the natural ‘love drug’ released after orgasm. Flickr/D. Sharon Pruitt

Scientists have discovered a new way of controlling a hormone that stimulates cancer growth and, along the way, gained new insight into how the feel-good hormone oxytocin can be regulated.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology at the Australian National University have developed a new compound that can help manage a peptide hormone called calcitonin, which can stimulate small cell lung cancer growth.

“We have been ale to develop one compound in particular that inhibits the products of calcitonin and therefore restricts cell growth. It selectively stops cancer growth,” said lead researcher Professor Chris Easton.

Preparations are underway to test the new compound, called O-decanoylglycolate, on animals in clinical trials.

The compound works by stopping an enzyme needed to produce calcitonin.

The calcitonin breakthrough has also yielded a better understanding of how one hormone can be controlled without others being affected, said Professor Easton.

Those lessons could be applied to develop new ways to control the hormone oxytocin, which is released after orgasm and during breastfeeding, and promotes feelings of love and trust.

“Oxtytocin is the feel-good hormone and gives people a natural high. Most people have background levels of oxytocin. By studying more broadly how production of these peptide hormones is regulated and inter-related, we can look at stimulating the production of some hormones and reducing the levels of others,” said Professor Easton.

“Some people have not enough oxytocin in regular levels, so they move from feelings of well-being to feeling down or depressed.”

The study was published in the latest edition of The Royal Society Chemistry journal, Medicinal Chemistry Communications.