Dr. John P. Wiebe
Hormonal Regulatory Mechanisms
Visit Dr. Wiebe's web site
Recent International Activities
European Union Connections
(A) Member of European Union Panel on Hormones in Meat
In May, 2006, Wiebe was approached by the Office of the Directorate-General, Consumer Policy and Health Protection, of the European Commission, Brussels. He was asked to serve as "hormone expert" on a Working Group of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to help draft a comprehensive scientific assessment of the potential risks to human health associated with the use of natural and synthetic growth promoting hormones (GPHs) in food-producing animals. The EU banned the use of GPHs in livestock and the import of meat and meat products from countries allowing their use, around 1988, but has been under constant pressure from world trade organizations and countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and a few others that still allow their use, to rescind the restrictions. The compounds employed are steroids or steroid-like hormones and Wiebe has studied steroid hormones most of his career and has discovered and identified several "new" steroid hormones in our bodies that regulate cancer and brain activity. He is the only non-European member, and has been making frequent trips to Brussels for meetings, or teleconferencing with selected members of the panel from the EU countries, to help write the draft to be forwarded to the European Parliament this (2007) summer. Based on the panel's scientific report, the European Parliament then is to debate the issues and decide whether to maintain or to abandon its present policies regarding the use of growth promoting hormones in livestock. Wiebe says that the many many hours of intensive literature research and writing and re-writing of numerous drafts have been rewarded with a tremendous learning experience in an area he was not previously familiar with.
(B) COST (European CO-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research
For nearly three years (2004-2006) Wiebe served as an invited "Expert" member of the Management Committee of COST Action B20, "Mammary Gland Development, Function and Cancer", under the initiative of the Council of the European Union. The duties of the Management Committee were: to plan annual or bi-annual scientific meetings and to promote research collaboration between institutes of the various represented countries and exchange of basic, theoretical and practical findings re human and animal mammary gland development and cancer as well as the development of new animal models.
Wiebe's participation made Western the first non-European institution to be represented on the COST B20 Scientific and Research Body.
Identification of New Hormones Regulating Breast Cancer
Wiebe's research over the years has tried to identify and explain cellular and molecular
mechanisms whereby hormones regulate various processes. His lab has discovered several new steroid hormones, produced in animal and human tissues, and identified their molecular structures, biosynthetic pathways and regulatory functions, first in reproduction, then in neurobiology and recently in cancer. These "new" hormones are for the most part derived from progesterone which has long been considered as an active hormone. The findings in Wiebe's lab have shown that in many tissues and for many regulatory processes progesterone is not the active hormone but serves instead as an inactive precursor, transformed at tissue sites into potent hormones with highly specific regulatory functions. About 6 years ago Wiebe and his group identified two new hormones, called 5alphaP and 3alphaHP, produced from progesterone in breast tissue that have since been shown to possess important regulatory functions in breast cancer.
Currently, the only hormone-based therapies for breast cancer involve suppressing the body’s estrogen levels and actions. Unfortunately, these therapies are effective in only a portion of breast cancer patients and then only for a limited time. Therefore, for a large number of breast cancer patients, there is currently no effective hormonal therapy. Dr. Wiebe's team has shown that 5alphaP and 3alphaHP have opposing effects on breast cancer cells: 5alphaP promotes the growth of cells and their invasion potential, whereas 3alphaHP inhibits these two processes. Since 5alphaP and 3alphaHP have been shown to act on all breast cell types tested to date, including those that do not respond to estrogens, the suggestion is that these new hormones provide an additional or alternate explanation for all forms of breast cancer. Current grant funded studies by Dr. Wiebe's team are aimed at (1) identifying which factors in a woman's body cause increases in 5alphaP and decreases in 3alphaHP, (2) examining the function and the structure of the receptor molecules that bind the hormones, (3) determining the mechanisms of the opposing actions of 5alphaP and 3alphaHP and (4) determining if the effects observed in cells grown in the laboratory can also be demonstrated in mouse models. The results of this research could lead to clinical trials based on blocking 5alphaP and stimulating 3alphaHP, and to new prognostic tests based on these two hormones and their receptors, which may be applicable to a majority of breast cancer patients.
Wiebe has received funding totaling $1.34 million during the last 5 years for research on these breast cancer regulating hormones, from Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline.
Wiebe has lectured widely in many countries on a variety of topics, including overpopulation and climate change (because of his earlier training in meteorological science), but especially on steroid hormones and their relation to reproduction, neurobiology and especially cancer. The recent research on the breast cancer hormones has been recognized internationally and Wiebe has been invited numerous times to give addresses at international symposia and conferences (Austria, Italy, Germany, Mexico), Scientific Academies and Universities (Cambridge, Heidelberg, Padua, London, Mexico) on the topic.
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This page was last updated on
December 17, 2009
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