Looking beyond the androgen receptor
Prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is treated with hormone therapies. They work by blocking the androgen receptor, the main driver of prostate cancer growth and spread. They are initially very effective but, over time, the cancer changes and can become resistant to their effect.
Recent research suggests hormone therapies stop working because the androgen receptor doesn’t act alone. Scientists think other proteins, called ‘co-factors’, work alongside the androgen receptor to help cancer grow, spread and become resistant to treatment.
In this project, Professor Charlotte Bevan wants to identify these co-factors and test the effects of chemicals that target them. This could ultimately result in new treatments that stop resistance from developing and keep existing hormone therapies working for longer.
Hitting the target
Professor Bevan and her transatlantic team will analyse data from previous studies and examine newly collected cancer samples from men at different stages of the disease. The combination of techniques will help them spot the most important co-factors and understand how they change as the disease progresses.
They will then test chemicals that target each co-factor to see if this affects the growth of cancer cells and their ability to respond to hormone therapies. This will tell them which ones could be the focus of future drug development.
By the end of the project, Professor Bevan hopes to have identified several co-factors with the potential to become drug targets. Following further research and development, drugs targeting co-factors could be tested in clinical trials in men with advanced disease. These could eventually be used alone or in combination with hormone therapies to prevent resistance developing and keep cancer controlled for longer, improving men’s quality of life and life expectancy.