Leiomyomas are a significant problem in women's health. An understanding of the biology of these tumors and how their growth is regulated is emerging from in vitro studies using tissue specimens and cultured cells. These studies have clarified how the ovarian steroid hormones regulate growth of uterine SMCs and how the ovarian steroid ligand-receptor system has been altered in leiomyomas. Such information will allow investigators to identify steroid hormone antagonists and steroid hormone receptor modulators that may be useful for treatment of leiomyomas. We are now also developing a much better understanding of the growth factors that are produced by SMCs of leiomyoma tumors. These growth factors not only regulate the proliferation, apoptosis, and extracellular matrix production of the SMCs but also regulate proliferation and migration of vascular endothelial cells. Targeting these growth factors and their receptors can reduce leiomyoma growth through two different mechanisms. One targets the SMCs and the other targets the vascular system that supports the growth of the tumor. Another important lesson that can be learned from reading the scientific literature is that there are striking similarities between the biology of uterine leiomyomas and other pathologic diseases that involve mesenchymally derived cells. These include benign keloids, other fibrotic diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, and vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. Compounds that are developed to treat these conditions may also be beneficial for treatment of uterine leiomyomas. The next few years will undoubtedly yield many new drug discoveries for these diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Obstetrics and Gynecology