(NEWS MEDICAL) – A newly discovered connection between two common prostate cancer treatments may soon make prostate cancer cells easier to destroy. Drugs that could capitalize on the discovery are already in the pipeline, and a clinical trial to test whether the finding could improve treatments for prostate cancer patients could be only a few years away.
The discovery also may allow doctors to better determine which forms of treatment will most benefit individual patients, and there may be implications for other forms of cancer as well.
An Unexpected Connection
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Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among American men. Common treatments include radiation and androgen ablation, and researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have found an unexpected link between the two.
The researchers determined that a cellular signaling pathway activated by radiation – to halt cell division and allow repair of damage to DNA – also controls cells' sensitivity to androgen, a male hormone prostate cancer cells need for growth. Androgen and androgen sensitivity, in turn, can affect how susceptible prostate cancer cells (and possibly other cancer cells) are to the radiation treatment used to kill them.
"Now we have a novel link between two different standards of care for advanced prostate cancer," said UVA researcher Dan Gioeli, PhD, of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology and the UVA Cancer Center. "For locally advanced prostate cancer, radiation therapy is one of the standards of care, and that induces DNA damage, which would activate this pathway. Another standard of care for metastatic prostate cancer is androgen ablation, and that acts to inhibit androgen receptor activity. Now we have a new molecular understanding of how those two different standards of care might be connected."