Growth factor receptor affects prostate cancer progression

December 10, 2007

Breeding mice with a gene for a cellular receptor that can be turned on and off-at will-not only enabled researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to show how prostate cancer progresses, but also provides a model for studying when a drug targeting a gene will have an effect on the cancer.

A report on the work by BCM researchers with fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 appears today in the journal Cancer Cell.

“Since we are manipulating the target gene itself, we can ask, what will happen" If we turn it off, what happens" That recapitulates the effect of a specific drug,” said Dr. David Spencer, professor of immunology at BCM. “By turning the gene on and off at various time points, we can define a ‘susceptibility window’ for that drug, a time in the progression of the disease when the gene would be an appropriate target.”

That therapeutic “window” defines the time when shutting off the gene would also shut down progression of the cancer. Previous studies show that fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 may have a role in initiating prostate cancer, he said. As a result, some companies have developed drugs designed to block the receptor. Spencer’s work looks at what would happen if the receptor is blocked.

In his mouse, he used a synthetic drug that turned the re-engineered fibroblast growth factor receptor on. As the gene product was activated, the prostate gland began dramatic, synchronized changes characteristic of cancer. However, when he withdrew the drug that turned the receptor on, the changes reversed over several weeks until the prostate gland appeared normal.

However, at a certain point, changes in the tissue reach a point of no-return and transform in to a kind of cancer called adenocarcinoma that does not appear to be reversible, although withdrawing the drug can slow the cancer, too.

During this study, Spencer, his graduate student, Victor Acevedo and their colleagues also studied the changes prostate cells undergo while they spread outside the gland and into surrounding tissue. Understanding the events that take place in cells during the transition from normal to cancer can provide important clues about cancer and potential treatments.

From this study, he has identified some of the genes involved in the transition from normal prostate cells within a secretory gland to more migratory, malignant cells outside the gland. Using special gene chips called tumor microarrays, they have also discovered the up regulation or increase in cellular levels of Fzd4, a gene that might prove to be a new marker for human prostate cancer.

“Victor started out looking for a role of fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 in prostate cancer progression and ended up with a new cancer marker and a model for epithelial cell plasticity, rounding out his productive thesis,” Spencer added.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine

Explore further: Study shows protein complex essential to creating healthy blood cells

Related Stories

Study finds marker of aggressive prostate cancer

August 3, 2016

The level of a specific molecule present in prostate tumors is an indicator of whether the cancer is aggressive and likely to spread, according to new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.