COUP-TFII sparks prostate cancer progression

November 28, 2012

Prostate cancer presents a dilemma for patients and the physicians who treat them. Which cancers are essentially indolent and present no risk and which are life threatening? Which can be watched and which need aggressive treatment?

Drs. Ming-Jer and Sophia Tsai, both professors in the department of at Baylor College of Medicine, think a receptor called COUP-TFII that they have long studied may point the way to an answer. In a study that appears online in the journal Nature, they show that high levels (overexpression) of COUP-TFII can overcome a natural barrier to progression of prostate cancer, allowing to grow and spread throughout the body – a process called metastasis.

"Levels of COUP-TFII provide a good for prostate cancer when added to other known markers of the disease," said Dr. Ming-Jer Tsai.

"COUP-TFII is an important 'second hit' for the progression of prostate cancer and metastasis," said Dr. Sophia Tsai. In other words, one "hit" or mutation might start the process of cells becoming cancerous. The second "hit" would make them more aggressive.

In studies of patient samples, loss of a protein called PTEN or mutations in another signaling pathway called PI3K show up in prostate tumors. However, tumors in which PTEN is lost can remain indolent. One theory is that loss of PTEN increases TGF-beta signaling, which creates a barrier to .

The Tsais' studies in mice that lack PTEN show that loss of COUP-TFII inhibits the development of in the animals. When mice have a gene that produces insufficient levels of PTEN, COUP-TFII overexpression enhances prostate . Further studies in mice that lost PTEN showed that high levels of COUP-TFII promoted the metastatic spread of the prostate cancer.

Studies in cell cultures and in human tissues confirmed the activity of COUP-TFII in promoting a more aggressive form of prostate cancer that could spread and metastasize.

The next step is find out how to inhibit COUP-TFII and prevent so-called indolent prostate cancers from becoming more aggressive, said Ming-Jer Tsai.

Explore further: Scientists find protein's bad guy role in prostate cancer

More information: DOI: 10.1038/nature11674

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Taking aim at rare cancer variants

July 29, 2016

If you walked into a cancer clinic ten years ago as a newly diagnosed patient, you'd likely get "standard of care" treatment based on the location of the cancer in your body and its stage. Make that same visit today and your ...

T-cells can be directed to treat a variety of ovarian cancers

July 28, 2016

With only incremental improvements in ovarian cancer survival over the last 40 years, there is a clear need for new treatment options with long-lasting results. Many researchers have turned toward the development of immunotherapies ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.