York scientists discover driving force behind prostate cancer

March 27, 2013

Scientists at the University of York have discovered the driving force behind the development of prostate cancer.

Their research, published in Nature Communications today and funded by the charity Yorkshire Cancer Research, reveals the existence of a cancer inducing DNA re-alignment in stem cells taken from human prostate cancers.

This opens the way to the development of drugs that target the stem cells, leading to more effective therapies that work against the root cause of the disease.

Professor Norman Maitland, Director of the YCR Cancer Research Unit, and his team in the University's Department of Biology were the first to isolate stem cells in 2005. While other can be killed by current therapies, stem cells are able to evade their effects, resulting in . The team has since been exploring the exact molecular properties that allow these cells to spread, survive and resist such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Professor Maitland said: "This discovery marks a fundamental shift in our understanding of how solid cancers start. It is believed that 'root' cancer cells arise from healthy stem cells going wrong – for example certain controls can be turned off which allow the cells to keep growing and invade surrounding tissue.

"In such as , DNA is rearranged during an event known as chromosomal translocation, which results in a that drives . Although similar rearrangements have recently been discovered in solid cancers, until now, they have not been considered as stem cell functions. Our work has challenged this idea."

Professor Maitland's team has found these genetic accidents in prostate cancer stem cells and has shown that they result in a specific cancer-associated gene within the cells called ERG being inappropriately activated. It is believed that this activation triggers the stem cells to renew more often.

Professor Maitland continued: "The cells become selfish by surviving outside normal controls that exist in the prostate and thrive at the expense of their neighbours, ensuring that the genetic accident becomes permanent and passed from generation to generation. This process appears to be essential for the initiation of prostate cancer."

Yorkshire Cancer Research funded a £2.15m five year programme at the YCR Cancer Research Unit in August 2011 to allow scientists to continue their internationally-award winning research into prostate cancer.

Kathryn Scott, Head of Research Funding at the charity, said: "This exciting discovery is another step forward in our understanding of how prostate cancer begins. Professor Maitland has detected one of the earliest possible changes in the development of prostate cancer. The findings mean that new therapies can now be developed which specifically target the protein identified, killing the stem cells that remain after chemotherapy while leaving healthy cells untouched."

Explore further: Link between prostate cancer and vitamin A may lead to improved treatment

Related Stories

Link between prostate cancer and vitamin A may lead to improved treatment

September 5, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Cancer scientists at the University of York have shown a link between prostate cancer and vitamin A for the first time.

New treatment option for advanced prostate cancer

August 12, 2011
A successful interdisciplinary project is underway between two research groups, in which senior researcher Rebecka Hellsten and Professor Anders Bjartell at the Faculty of Medicine's division for Urological Cancer Research, ...

Researchers find cancer aggression differences in different types of prostate cells

February 25, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A research team made up of representatives from several cancer research centers in the United States has found that cancers that develop in the prostate of mice may be either aggressive or sluggish depending ...

Cancer stem cell vaccine in development shows antitumor effect

April 2, 2012
Scientists may have discovered a new paradigm for immunotherapy against cancer by priming antibodies and T cells with cancer stem cells, according to a study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association ...

Prostate cancer early warning protein detected

May 31, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at the University have discovered a protein, only present in prostate cancer cells, that could be used as a marker to detect early signs of the disease.     

Recommended for you

Anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agent inhibits glioblastoma growth and radiation resistance

July 24, 2017
Glioblastoma is a primary brain tumor with dismal survival rates, even after treatment with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A small subpopulation of tumor cells—glioma stem cells—is responsible for glioblastoma's ...

New therapeutic approach for difficult-to-treat subtype of ovarian cancer identified

July 24, 2017
A potential new therapeutic strategy for a difficult-to-treat form of ovarian cancer has been discovered by Wistar scientists. The findings were published online in Nature Cell Biology.

Immune cells the missing ingredient in new bladder cancer treatment

July 24, 2017
New research offers a possible explanation for why a new type of cancer treatment hasn't been working as expected against bladder cancer.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

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.