Scientists funded by The Prostate Cancer Charity have taken
critical steps towards understanding advanced prostate cancer with
the unexpected discovery of a key protein which encourages the
disease to form in the bones, according to research published today
(Friday) online in The Journal of Pathology.
The research carried out at Imperial College London, focussed on
the role of a protein, ENDO180 - already present in bones - to
understand how it reacts when prostate cancer cells are
Although ENDO180 normally helps keep bone healthy, the
researchers discovered that when cancerous cells escape from a
tumour in the prostate gland and interact with cells in the bone,
the protein - which is present in both types of cell - is directed
to damage the bone instead.
Lead researcher, Dr Justin Sturge, explains - "Before this
study, the role that ENDO180 plays in the development of advanced
prostate cancer that has begun to spread to the bones was unclear.
Now we know that ENDO180 helps healthy bone to stay that way, but
when in the presence of cancer cells the protein is directed to
damage the bone, which allows the tumour to take hold and grow. The
discovery of this 'Jekyll and Hyde' behaviour reveals ENDO180 as
one of the elusive targets that we have long been searching for to
help the development of new treatments that can stop prostate
cancer entering and growing in the bone."
As part of the research, the team also uncovered that a molecule
- TGFβ1 - is involved in controlling the ENDO180 protein. It was
found that when cancerous cells were introduced, they hijacked a
signal from the molecule to the protein and this loss of control is
the reason why ENDO180 was able to change its behaviour.
Further research will now seek to develop new treatments
focussed on the link between ENDO180 and TGFβ1 that could be used
to slow down the progress of advanced prostate cancer that has
spread to the bone.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity,
added: "This new research has heralded some important discoveries
which could offer new hope to men living with the advanced stages
of prostate cancer. Currently, when a man's prostate cancer begins
to escape beyond the prostate and spreads to the bone, there are
very few treatment options available that can help to stop the
disease in its tracks. We hope that as research into this area
continues, new treatments targeting ENDO180 will be developed,
which will allow us to slow down the progression of advanced
disease and help more men, for whom time is limited, to live