Some of the drugs given to many men during their fight against prostate cancer can actually spur some cancer cells to grow, researchers have found. The findings were published online this week in a pair of papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The results may help explain a phenomenon that has bedeviled patients for decades. Hormone therapy, a common treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer, generally keeps the cancer at bay for a year or two. But then, for reasons scientists have never understood, the treatment fails in patients whose disease has spread the cancer begins to grow again, at a time when patients have few treatment options left.
The new findings by a team led by Chawnshang Chang, Ph.D., director of the George Whipple Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center, help explain the process by showing that the androgen receptor, through which male hormones like testosterone work, is much more versatile than previously thought. Under certain conditions the molecule spurs growth, and at other times the molecule squelches growth just like the same molecule does to hair in different locations on a man's head.
The new findings raise the possibility that under some conditions, some treatments designed to treat prostate cancer could instead remove one of the body's natural brakes on the spread of the disease in the body. The researchers stress that the results are based on laboratory studies and on findings in mice, and it's too soon to know yet whether the findings apply directly to prostate cancer in men.
Understanding the effects of the androgen receptor gives physicians a toehold in efforts to develop more effective treatments for men with prostate cancer. That would be welcome news for the one of every six men who will get the disease during his lifetime. More than 28,000 men die from the disease in the United States each year, according to the A
|Contact: Leslie White|
University of Rochester Medical Center