Hill engages in groundbreaking cancer research

Posted August 13, 2014

Dr. Steven Hill may be on the verge of a breakthrough.

The world-famous breast cancer researcher has made quite a name for himself since graduating from ACU in 1980 with a biology degree.

According to recently published findings in the journal Cancer Research, Hill has utilized animal tests to show that light affects sleep hormones, which in turn alters cancer cell function. Some experts call Hill's findings intriguing, through they have yet to be proven in people.

Hill and other researchers at the Tulane University School of Medicine investigated the role of the body clock in Tamoxifen resistance. They focused their research on the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, which normally begins to rise in the evening and continues through the night, before falling away as dawn approaches. Evening light, they found, from sources such as a smartphone, tablet or artificial lights, can lower melatonin levels.

Rats, with human breast cancer and treated with Tamoxifen, were left to sleep in a completely dark cage or a dimly lit one. The scientists showed that in dim light, melatonin levels were lower, and the tumors were bigger and resistant to Tamoxifen. A second set of tests showed that giving those mice melatonin supplements kept Tamoxifen working and resulted in smaller tumors.

"I'm not advocating people buy melatonin over the counter; there's not enough evidence," says Dr. Hill, according to the BBC. "But they could make sure they sleep in a room that is completely dark or they could wear eye masks to let nighttime melatonin rise and take Tamoxifen right before going to bed. That would be the easiest way to see if it works."

"Dr. Hill's research shows great potential to benefit millions of people," says Dr. Tom Lee, professor and chair of ACU's Department of Biology. "We are very proud that he is one of our graduates – one of many who are making a difference in the world."

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