Advanced Understanding in Prostate Cancer Research

Advanced Understanding in Prostate Cancer Research

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Our scientists have paved the way for a better understanding into how prostate cancer cells gain their ability to spread from the initial tumour to other areas of the body.

 

How prostate cancer spreads

Metastasis is when cancer cells begin to invade other sites such as the bone or brain. They move from the primary tumour by activating biological processes which allow them to survive the journey and establish themselves in their new ‘home’.

4 prostate cancer spheres showing different cells with differing levels of EMT.

4 prostate cancer spheres showing different cells with differing levels of EMT.

Cells are able to reactivate a programme called ‘epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition’ also known as EMT, to which is thought to give the properties needed to be invasive and migrate.

So how do they do this? Epithelial cells which don’t move and are tightly joined, go through a change to become mesenchymal. They lose their tight cell connections, change shape and gain the ability to migrate and invade surrounding tissues and blood vessels. For prostate cells in the laboratory, outside the body (in vitro) most investigations into EMT involve artificially pushing the cells to change by adding in external factors, and the majority  of research in prostate cancer has used cell lines from metastasis (cells derived not from the prostate but from other sites of the body the prostate cancer has spread) that have already undergone this process  In the past, this process has been poorly understood due to the lack of cells from primary tumours available for research.

 

Leap forward in prostate cancer research

Thanks to the great work of our scientists, they now have the tools to be able to study the cells before the process occurs.

They have generated a panel of prostate cancer cells which spontaneously undergo a process (EMT) thought to be involved in the spread of the disease. Their work is expected to provide important insight into the spread of aggressive prostate cancers and help to improve the management, treatment and survival of the patients with the therapy-resistant disease.

They will be able to get a glimpse into the workings of cancer progression and metastasis at the earliest possible stage.

 

What this means for future research

With prostate cancer being the most common male cancer in Europe and 90% of cancer-related deaths due to disease, it is crucial that we understand these processes to reduce the number of prostate-cancer related deaths.

This work will provide an important platform for future studies, helping us to better understand cancer progression. It could also be crucial in providing valuable insight into potential new therapies and approaches for the treatment and management of prostate cancer.

For all you scientists that want to see more, read the published paper here http://www.nature.com/articles/srep40633

Katie Line, Community Fundraising Assistant


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