THURSDAY, Dec. 20, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A hormone called adrenomedullin may prove an effective drug target for treating lymphedema, a painful swelling of the limbs that can follow breast cancer or other cancer treatment, U.S. researchers say.
It may also help prevent the spread of cancer, according to a team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
Adrenomedullin, which is secreted by cells throughout the body, is known to play a role in cardiovascular disease and other cell functions. In a new study, the UNC group found that adrenomedullin also plays an important role in the formation of the lymphatic system in mice.
They said it may be possible to develop drugs that target this hormone in order to help the more than 100 million people worldwide who suffer from lymphedema. The condition occurs when the lymphatic system fails to work properly. In rare cases, it is genetic, but millions suffer lymphedema due to parasitic infections or as the aftermath of cancer therapies.
Currently, the only treatments for lymphedema include massage and the use of low-compression stockings and other garments. But these aren't much help, the UNC researchers said.
"Our research also may lead to therapies to prevent cancer cells from traveling through these lymphatic vessels to infiltrate other parts of the body," senior study author Kathleen M. Caron, assistant professor of cell and molecular physiology and genetics, said in a prepared statement.
The study is published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The Society for Vascular Surgery has more about lymphedema.