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New drug approach could treat deadly neuroendocrine prostate cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Research offers hope for new treatment for lethal neuroendocrine prostate cancer

Drugs that are already in clinical trials for treating other types of cancer might also help treat aggressive neuroendocrine prostate cancer that can become resistant to androgen deprivation therapy. Researchers suggest they may have found a way to treat lethal forms of prostate cancer by targeting overexpression of a cancer producing protein.

Scientists believe even though androgen deprivation therapy is an effective prostate cancer treatment, prostate tumors can morph and become more aggressive during hormone therapy.

Dr. Himisha Beltran, assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and a medical oncologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center explains there may now be a way to treat neuroendocrine cancer by targeting RNA production of a gene that promotes cell division.

The researchers discovered aggressive prostate cancers overexpress the AURKA and MYCN genes and that in 40 percent of prostate tumors have more than one copy of the genes.

The AURKA gene produces a protein known as aurora A kinase that researchers believe promotes cancer – that is an oncogene.

AURKA and MYCN work together to promote neuroendocrine prostate cancer, explains Dr. Mark A. Rubin, lead study investigator.

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Drugs in development that are currently being tested inhibit the action of aurora kinase.

In studies aurora kinase inhibitor PHA-739358 destroyed neuroendocrine prostate cancer in lab cells. In animal models the drug rapidly shrank prostate cancer tumors.

The drug is very specific to neuroendocrine forms of the disease, and failed in studies to treat prostate cancer from adenocarcinoma.

"Not only are we eager to test the drug in patients diagnosed with neuroendocrine prostate cancer, we hope to develop biomarkers that can help us screen patients for these cells before the cancer advances," says Dr. Beltran.

By the time neuroendocrine prostate cancer develops, the disease is advanced, explain the researchers and few men are biopsied.

For the study, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, the scientists collected samples of the type of deadly cancer from investigators in the U.S. and Europe to find out what happens when cancer of the prostate turns lethal.

"This is a great example of team science," Dr. Rubin says. Using aurora kinase inhibitors could help men whose prostate cancer becomes lethal after receiving androgen deprivation hormone therapy. The drugs are already in clinical trials for treating other types of cancer.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Attribution: Nephron