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Antiproliferative effects of GnRH agonists: prospects and problems for cancer therapy

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CD White, Alan James Stewart, ZL Lu, RP Millar, K Morgan

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Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor activation has been demonstrated to inhibit cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. These effects are dependent on the degree of receptor expression and the intracellular signaling protein milieu. The physiological and pathophysiological relevance is largely undefined, and its potential for exploitation in the treatment of specific malignancies is the subject of ongoing investigations. GnRH receptors are expressed in embryonic, juvenile and adult tissues, including brain, pituitary, gonads, accessory reproductive organs and placenta. The levels of receptor expression vary, from high in pituitary gonadotropes to low in peripheral tissues, although quantification of functional receptor protein has been determined in relatively few cell types. Roles for GnRH receptor signaling at different stages of animal development and its influence on reproductive health remain largely unexplored, except in cases of hereditary hypogonadal infertility. In addition to regulating hormone secretion, GnRH is postulated to act as a chemokine or a growth- and differentiation-inducing factor. Hence, receptor activation may influence the function of neuronal networks in the brain and the maturation of reproductive tissue epithelia. GnRH may also potentially influence the biology of cancerous cells in reproductive tissue since receptor activation may signal terminal differentiation, cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. In this context, the cell surface expression of GnRH receptor is important since it influences the intensity of intracellular signaling, and correlates with the ability to inhibit proliferation in transformed cells in vitro. Here, we review data on the effects of GnRH agonists on cell proliferation and apoptosis, and put forward hypotheses for investigation to determine whether the GnRH receptor acts as a tumor suppressor in neuroendocrine or epithelial cells.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-79
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008

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