Researchers, funded by Prostate Cancer UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC), believe they have discovered an entirely new way of slowing the growth of prostate cancer. The findings, published today in Disease Models and Mechanisms, could lead to new and more highly targeted treatments for the disease in the future.
The research team found that turning on key genes inside 'fibroblast' cells in prostate tumours dramatically reduced the size of the tumours when grown in mice. Further research is now needed to confirm that this approach has the same effect on prostate cancers in humans.
Lead researcher, Dr Axel Thomson, said: "Our previous research identified a number of 'puppet-master genes' - so called because they enable fibroblast cells to control the growth of other cells during the formation of the prostate in the embryo. In this follow-up study we found that activating these genes in fibroblasts in tumours enabled us to significantly reduce the growth of prostate cancer in mice.
"This is an extremely exciting development that has the potential to form the basis of a revolution in prostate cancer treatments over time if replicated in humans. By targeting the fibroblasts that control the growth of the cancer these new treatments could be both more effective and likely to lead to significantly fewer side effects."
The findings are part of an ongoing body of Prostate Cancer UK funded research exploring how the environment surrounding cancer cells affects tumour growth. It builds on a growing body of evidence which suggests that the non-cancerous fibroblast cells within prostate tumours could be a key target for successful treatments in the future.
Dr Rachel Macdonald, Research Manager at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "This is an extremely encouraging development which could have positive and far reaching consequences for prostate cancer treatments in years to come.
"To date, most prostate cancer research has focused on exploring the cancerous cells within the tumour. By investigating the behaviour of the non-cancerous cells which control tumour development the team has been able to make this groundbreaking discovery. The success of this research so far highlights the importance of Prostate Cancer UK's decision to fund research projects that employ more innovative approaches to finding the answers we so desperately need to beat the most common cancer in men."
Prostate Cancer UK recently launched its MANifesto, which included the announcement of its largest research spend to date. Thanks to the support of The Movember Foundation, the charity will triple its research spend over the next 3 years to fund £25 million, making it the largest single funder of research into prostate cancer in the UK.
The study will be available on line at dmm.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/dmm.010355
Lead author Dr Axel Thomson is also available for interview on request.
For a full copy of the study in advance, or to set up an interview please contact Prostate Cancer UK's Press Office on 0208 222 7633, 07984325001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
Prostate Cancer UK
Prostate Cancer UK fights to help more men survive prostate cancer and enjoy a better quality of life. We support men and provide vital information. We find answers by funding research into causes and treatments. And we lead change, raising the profile of the disease and improving care. We believe that men deserve better.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Every hour 1 man dies from prostate cancer.
African Caribbean men are 3 times * more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men of the same age.
Anyone concerned about prostate cancer can call Prostate Cancer UK's confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383 or visit www.prostatecanceruk.org. The helpline is staffed by specialist nurses and open from 10am to 4pm on Monday to Friday and from 7 - 9pm on Wednesdays.
Medical Research Council
For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk
*Things have changed since this was published. Find out more.