Scientists funded by The Prostate Cancer Charity and the Medical
Research Council have taken a step forward in understanding how
prostate cancer grows, with the discovery of several genes
that play an unexpected role in controlling the development of the
disease, according to new research published today (Monday) in
The research, which was carried out at The Queen's Medical
Research Institute in Edinburgh, used next-generation DNA
sequencing, to establish which genes become active or inactive as
prostate cancer develops.
The research focussed on the role of stromal cells in the
prostate gland - cells which are present in tumours but are not
cancerous - that are key in controlling how cancer cells behave and
Lead author, Dr Axel Thomson, explains: "Stromal cells are in
effect like the 'puppet masters' of cancer growth and, although not
cancerous themselves, they can have a big effect on how tumours
grow. The new DNA sequencing technology enabled us to look at these
cells in the prostate in great detail and identify genes active in
the stromal cells which merit further investigation."
The researchers used a new DNA sequencing technique known as Tag
profiling and compared genes that became active in an embryonic
prostate, an adult prostate gland and in prostate cancer itself.
This determined that the ASPN, CAV1, CFH, CTSK, DCN, FBLN1, FHL1,
FN, NKTR, OGN, PARVA, S100A6, SPARC, STC1 and ZEB1 genes were all
found to be active when prostate cancer begins to grow.
When the prostate forms inside a developing embryo, there are
many powerful regulatory pathways turned on which control the
growth of the prostate gland. By finding out which of these genes
were active in both the cancer stromal cells and in the embryonic
prostate, the team were able to identify those likely to play an
important role in controlling cell growth. These could, eventually,
be used to slow down the growth of prostate cancer.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive at The Prostate Cancer Charity,
said: "This new basic level research has provided us with some
important genetic clues about how prostate cancer grows. Through
looking at the similarities in cells found in adult prostate
tumours with the cells in an embryonic prostate, the researchers
have found that it is actually the normal cells of the prostate
which are driving and regulating the growth of prostate cancer.
These results are particularly exciting as they could potentially
be used as a target for the development of new drugs and treatments
which could help to slow down, or even stop, the progress of the
disease in men."