Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Growth Hormone Target for Cancer and Diabetes

Growth hormone is being investigated as a drug target for diseases including cancer and diabetes.

“People without growth hormone receptor don’t die from cancer or diabetes, making it an ideal drug target,” says Prof Mike Waters of The University of Queensland. “But we didn’t know enough about how it functioned to be able to design cancer or diabetes drugs that would bind to the receptor and turn it either on or off as appropriate.

“We’ve now figured out how growth hormone turns on its receptor at the molecular level, and so have a clear idea of which part of the molecule to target to design drugs to combat these diseases.”

The research was published in Science. Co-author Dr Andrew Brooks said the discovery had implications beyond cancer and diabetes. “Growth hormone receptor is one of a group of proteins known as cytokine receptors, which are important targets for therapeutics for a range of disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, blood disorders, osteoporosis and obesity.

“Our understanding of how growth hormone receptor functions should give us insights into how the other cytokine receptors work, which in turn will inform the design of therapeutics to target these cytokine receptors and to treat many diseases.”