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Vanessa W Lim, Jun Li, Yinhan Gong, Aizhen Jin, Jian-Min Yuan, Eu Leong Yong, and Woon-Puay Koh

The estrogen levels of Asian women are different from those of Western women, and this could affect estrogen receptor (ER) bioactivity and breast cancer risk. We conducted a case–control study in 169 postmenopausal breast cancer cases and 426 matched controls nested within a population-based prospective cohort study, the Singapore Chinese Health Study, to evaluate the serum levels of estrogens and their receptor (ERα and ERβ)-mediated estrogenic activities in relation to breast cancer risk. Breast cancer cases had higher levels of estrogens and ER-mediated bioactivities in baseline serum than the controls. Compared with those in the lowest quartile, women in the highest quartile for estrone (E1) or ERα-mediated bioactivity had increased breast cancer risk. After additional adjustment for ERβ bioactivity, free estradiol, and E1 levels, serum ERα-mediated bioactivity remained associated with increased breast cancer risk. Compared with those in the lowest quartile, women in the highest quartile for ERα-mediated bioactivity had an odds ratio of 2.39 (95% CI=1.17–4.88; P for trend=0.016). Conversely, the positive association between E1 and cancer risk became null after adjustment for ERα-mediated bioactivity, suggesting that the effect of E1 could be mediated through ERα. Factor(s) contributing to increased ERα-mediated estrogenic bioactivity in serum and its role as a predictor for breast cancer risk need to be validated in future studies.

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Neil A Bhowmick, Jillian Oft, Tanya Dorff, Sumanta Pal, Neeraj Agarwal, Robert A Figlin, Edwin M Posadas, Stephen J Freedland, and Jun Gong

The current pandemic (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a global health challenge with active development of antiviral drugs and vaccines seeking to reduce its significant disease burden. Early reports have confirmed that transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) and angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) are critical targets of SARS-CoV-2 that facilitate viral entry into host cells. TMPRSS2 and ACE2 are expressed in multiple human tissues beyond the lung including the testes where predisposition to SARS-CoV-2 infection may exist. TMPRSS2 is an androgen-responsive gene and its fusion represents one of the most frequent alterations in prostate cancer. Androgen suppression by androgen deprivation therapy and androgen receptor signaling inhibitors form the foundation of prostate cancer treatment. In this review, we highlight the growing evidence in support of androgen regulation of TMPRSS2 and ACE2 and the potential clinical implications of using androgen suppression to downregulate TMPRSS2 to target SARS-CoV-2. We also discuss the future directions and controversies that need to be addressed in order to establish the viability of targeting TMPRSS2 and/or ACE2 through androgen signaling regulation for COVID-19 treatment, particularly its relevance in the context of prostate cancer management.