Researchers from the University of Iowa and University of Alabama announced today that they are unraveling how prostate cancer cells grow and spread by identifying specific molecules which lead to changes in the migration and movement characteristics of prostate cancer cells. Findings from two separate studies were unveiled at the Prostate Cancer Research Program?s (PCRP?s) Innovative Minds in Prostate Cancer Today (IMPaCT) conference in Orlando, Fla.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men?accounting for almost 30% of all cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 217,730 men in the U.S. would be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 32,050 men would lose their life to the disease in 2010.
The Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) is the second-largest funder of prostate cancer research in the U.S. The program brings together prestigious prostate cancer researchers, survivors, and policy makers to tackle research challenges and offer hope to the millions of people affected directly and indirectly by prostate cancer.
Complex and poorly understood
Metastasis, a series of steps leading to tumor formation in distant parts of the body, is the cause of prostate cancer death. The steps leading to the spread of prostate cancer cells throughout the body are complex and poorly understood. However, top PCRP-funded scientists are leading the effort to navigate the complexities of metastasis by discovering the very specific roles that different molecules play in the process.
The PCRP supports hundreds of outstanding prostate cancer trainees and investigators in the early stages of their careers. Studies from two such young investigators are shedding new light on how cancer cells move from the bloodstream into other tissues within the human body. In the first study, researchers provide evidence that a molecule called ZEB1 alters the migration characteristics of prostate cancer cells, increasing their ability to exit the bloodstream. When these researchers silenced ZEB1 in prostate cancer cells, they detected a dramatic reduction in the number of experimental tumors.
?Though the study is still in its infancy, we are very hopeful about the long-term possibilities of the findings,? said James Matthew Barnes of the University of Iowa, predoctoral trainee and author of the study. ?Eventually, we hope to see therapeutic treatments that emerge from our findings, reducing the spread of prostate cancer cells throughout the body.?
The second study took an unorthodox look at the environment surrounding prostate cancer cells, finding that protein molecules called RAGE actually feed and stimulate the movement of harmful cells. Results showed the potential ability down the road to determine whether prostate cancer will reoccur, according to lead researcher Majd Zayzafoon, MD, PhD, a PCRP New Investigator awardee at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
?Currently, patients diagnosed with prostate cancer have no way of knowing whether a prostatectomy is the best treatment choice for them or not,? said Dr. Zayzafoon. ?These findings are very exciting, as we will potentially be able to determine what a patient can expect in a year?s time. We are honored to be part of this research and to be making a significant impact on the world of prostate cancer research.?
The PCRP, a program within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), funded the studies. The program is committed to improving early diagnosis and detection, developing new and effective therapies and prognostic tools, and improving the quality of life for all persons affected by prostate cancer.
?This kind of groundbreaking research fuels our mission to conquer prostate cancer. We are excited to see how our efforts to foster the careers of new investigators in prostate cancer research are paying off, and that these bright young minds are ready to take us to a future free of such diseases,? said Navy Captain Melissa Kaime, MD, CDMRP Director.
For more information:
The Role of ZEB1 and Epithelial ? Mesenchymal Transition in Prostate Cancer Metastasis (James Matthew Barnes, University of Iowa).
The Role of S100A4 RAGE in Prostate Cancer Metastasis (Majd Zayzafoon, Omar Hameed, John Petros, Leland Chung, and Jennifer Paige-Robinson, University of Alabama at Birmingham)