A two-pronged attack for treating prostate cancer

What you need to know

  • Professor Carling and his team have found two new drug targets, which could be used together to stop prostate cancer from progressing. 
  • They'll use a two-pronged approach: blocking one target and activating another, to put prostate cancer growth to a stop. 
  • If successful, the three year project will provide the basis for developing new drugs to treat advanced prostate cancer.
The most significant and immediate impact of our work will be to establish whether the two proteins are viable drug targets for treatment of prostate cancer. Our findings will have important implications for development of new drugs.
Professor David Carling

A major part of developing new cancer treatments is finding good drug targets. Professor Carling and his team think they have found two such targets involved in helping prostate cancer grow. Together, they could form the basis of a new treatment for advanced prostate cancer.  

Jammed accelerators and broken brakes are key to discovery 

The targets are both a type of protein called kinasesOne kinase triggers cell growth, like an accelerator, and the other stops cell growth, like a brake. When they work together, cell growth is balanced out to a healthy amount. But in prostate cancer cells, these proteins stop working together properly and cell growth gets out of control.

Professor Carling wants to see if stopping the accelerator kinase and boosting the brake kinase could help stop the excessive cell growth that occurs in prostate cancer. Importantly, previous work suggests that affecting the activity of the two proteins in this way does not affect normal cells, meaning this could be a safe way to treat prostate cancer.  

Putting the targets to the test 

The team will test their theory by altering the activity of the kinases in two ways: changing their genetic codes or using chemicals that are similar to drugs but not yet approved for use. They will do this in both prostate cancer cells grown in the lab and in mice, which will also help them understand if there are any side-effects associated with the treatment. The researchers will develop and use biomarkers to monitor whether the treatments have caused the prostate cancer cells to slow, or stop, growing.  

One step closer to a clinical trial 

If the project is successful, it will provide the basis for developing drugs against the two kinases. There are already some promising chemicals which can activate the brake kinase, however more work and funding is needed to find a chemical which can inhibit the accelerator kinase. Once these chemicals have been found, they can be tested in a clinical trial of men with advanced prostate cancer. 

Grant information

Reference -  RIA17-ST2-001 
Researcher -  Professor David Carling 
Institution -  Imperial College London 
Award - £235,582.00