New Enzyme Target for End-Stage Prostate Cancer


Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered an enzyme that can be targeted to stop the production of androgens leading to tumor growth in end-stage prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can become resistant to hormone therapy, which is the standard treatment for patients today. If this enzyme can be stopped, it is possible that doctors will one day have a new therapy for patients with end-stage prostate cancer.


Right now, hormones like testosterone, are targeted to slow the growth of tumors. Over time, the body develops a type of tolerance that resists the hormone therapy. However, researchers say that the hormone DHEA is converted by the tumors into androgen, and they can block 3βHSD which will in turn stop the conversion of DHEA ending the tumor’s “lifeline.”

Right now, prostate cancer has limited treatment options but enzymes make great targets for drug treatments. Of course, this study is just the first step in forming a new treatment drug. It will take years to translate this study’s finding into a pill, on the market and provided to patients through prescriptions. Any drug made to target the enzyme will have to go through clinical trials to measure safety and effectiveness. And then, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration of the United States) will determine if it is safe enough to be produced for consumption.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, in 2010, nearly 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 32,000 men will die from the disease. A man is 35% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than a woman is to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Older age, African American race, and a family history of the disease can all increase the likelihood of a man being diagnosed with the disease. Approximately 90% of all prostate cancers are detected in the local and regional stages, and the cure rate for prostate cancer is very high—nearly 100% of men diagnosed at this stage will be disease-free after five years. However, the prognosis decreases the later it is detected.

Symptoms such as frequent, hesitant, or burning urination, difficulty in having an erection, or pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs could indicate prostate cancer. Men with these symptoms should have a blood test and a digital rectal exam to determine if it is prostate cancer or another disease.