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Advanced prostate cancer pathway found by UT Southwestern researchers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Prostate cancer

Resistant prostate cancer may not be not driven by testosterone as believed shows newer research. The finding means targeting a newly discovered enzyme could improve prostate cancer outcomes for men whose disease has spread beyond the prostate gland.

UT Southwestern scientists found advanced cases of prostate cancer evade testosterone, previously thought to stimulate cancer growth.

The finding explains why testosterone deprivation therapy fails to eradicate prostate cancer tumors.

Dr. Nima Sharifi, assistant professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains testosterone converts to a more potent male hormone that fuels tumor growth when the disease becomes more advanced.

Dr. Sharifi says, “The general assumption is that the tumor accelerates through testosterone when, in fact, the pathway goes around it to the most potent hormone. We both found the existence of this pathway in models and patients, and have shown that these resistant tumors are clearly driven by this other pathway.”

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Understanding what drives prostate cancer means researchers can use different drugs that target the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into a more potent hormone.

Sharifi explains different drug treatment for prostate cancer …”can be thought of as charting a map of the correct pathway. You have to figure out which way the river flows before you can block the river.”

The finding, according to Dr. Sharifi, will change the way prostate cancer is viewed. Treating advanced prostate cancer requires drugs targeting an enzyme that initiates hormone production earlier in the disease.

Testosterone is known to drive prostate cancer. The new finding shows advanced prostate cancer is driven by a different and more potent hormonal pathway that was previously unknown and bypasses testosterone altogether.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Prostate cancer cells

Updated 8/31/2014