A UK based team of scientists and doctors have found a way to slow the development and spread of prostate cancer by stopping certain genes from becoming active.
According to research published online in Oncogene, the team from Imperial College London, Cancer Research UK and Hammersmith Hospital have found a way to stop the development of cancer cells in the lab by limiting the effects of the androgen hormone and the genes which are activated by it. They have developed a way to silence these genes using an androgen receptor (AR) repressor, delivered by gene therapy.
Androgen is a hormone which is responsible for male characteristics and the development and function of male sexual organs. Scientists know that AR is active in virtually all prostate cancers, and the gene from the AR is frequently mutated.
Professor Jonathan Waxman, from Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospital, and one of the researchers, comments: "Currently prostate cancer patients receive hormone therapy which stops the androgen receptor from producing testosterone, but this new therapy could prove much more effective in stopping the development of cancer.
"By using this repressor we can stop the genes from becoming active, and hopefully limit the development of cancer. We hope to combine using this repressor with existing cancer treatments to help develop newer, more effective methods to treat cancer."
The androgen receptor plays a key role in the development and progression of cancer. Currently doctors use anti-androgens to stop the genes regulated by the androgen receptor from being switched on, but the team have now discovered a repressor called PZLF, which has been fused with the AR to produce PLZF-AF, a combination of the two.
Professor Waxman adds: "Although this could be very good news for prostate cancer patients, we do need to be careful in interpreting the results. As yet we have not carried out these tests in patients, and getting the right delivery system will be key to this becoming an effective treatment, potentially helping many thousands of people in the UK alone."
The research was supported by Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals Trustees, the Prostate Cancer Charity, Cancer Research UK and the Association for International Cancer Research.
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