Mapping of prostate cancer genes opens the door to new treatments

May 20, 2008

Genetic changes during the initiation and progression of prostate cancer have eluded scientists to date. Now for the first time researchers have identified a specific gene expression profile of prostate cancer stem cells, with important implications for future treatments.

The findings, published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Genome Biology, revealed 581 genes that are differentially expressed in certain prostate cancer cells, highlighting several pathways important in the cancer stem-cells biology, and offering targets for new chemopreventative and chemotherapeutic approaches.

The cells in the study represent less than 0.1% of prostate cancer tumors, and have properties that mark them out as cancer stem cells. The cells renew themselves, are highly invasive, and have a longer lifetime than normal stem cells. They also feature a primitive epithelial phenotype and can differentiate to recapitulate phenotypes seen in prostate tumors. The cells are found in all stages and types of prostate cancer.

Expression profiling of prostate cancers typically uses tumor cell mass samples to identify individual genes. In this study, researchers harnessed advances in microarray and target labelling technologies to produce a functionally annotated expression profile of these prostate cancer stem cells.

The team, from the YCR Cancer Research Unit at the University of York and Pro-cure Therapeutics Ltd, created a malignant stem cell signature by combining genes significantly overexpressed in stem cells with those significantly overexpressed in malignant stem cells. Quantitative RT-PCR, flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry were used to validate the gene expression changes.

Genes associated with inflammation were prominent in the cancer stem cell expression profile. Potential therapeutic target NFκB is known to promote cell survival. The researchers showed that an NFκB inhibitor triggered programmed cell death in cancer stem cells, but spared normal stem cells. This provides a potential therapeutic target for this rare group of cells, which are unlikely to be affected by current chemotherapy regimens.

“For the first time we are looking at the subpopulation of cancer cells which actually initiate new tumors” explains Anne Collins, who coordinated the study. “The genetic profiling we have carried out should stimulate new lines of research directed towards stem cell treatments for cancer”

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: New cancer drug target involving lipid chemical messengers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tool aids stem cell engineering for medical research

Aug 28, 2014

A Mayo Clinic researcher and his collaborators have developed an online analytic tool that will speed up and enhance the process of re-engineering cells for biomedical investigation. CellNet is a free-use Internet platform ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
not rated yet May 21, 2008
Defining the "gene" and its "mode of expression" is imperative! Is it a "molecule" and its mode of expression an "electron" with certain "spin"? The debate is long overdue! Let physicists into the lab!