Cells involved in aggressive prostate cancer growth to be targeted in the disease’s early stages

A new sub-group of cells that influences prostate cancer recurrence has been identified by researchers at Monash University.

The previously unidentified cells are present in the disease’s early stages, opening up new doors to develop a therapy which targets these cells and prevents the disease from progressing to an aggressive stage.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, claiming more than 3000 Australian lives and affecting up to 20,000 annually.

For advanced cases, the best available treatment involves drugs that deprive the tumour of the male hormones which cause it to grow (androgen-deprivation therapy) . In many cases, the tumour can become resistant to this treatment leaving the patient with both debilitating side-effects and an aggressive new form of the prostate cancer.

The new sub-group of cells identified by Monash researchers is involved in this very treatment resistance.

“The results indicate that these persistent cancer cells somehow differ from cancer cells that respond to androgen withdrawal, and are likely to be the precursor cells that lead to advanced androgen-resistant disease. We will now investigate how to effectively target these cells,” Professor Risbridger, who co-led the study said.

Professor Mark Frydenberg of the Monash Department of Surgery, and Chairman of the Department of Urology, Monash Health, said ultimately the findings could lead to additional therapies to increase the effectiveness of existing prostate cancer treatments.

“This new information suggests that potentially some of the powerful targeted therapies now being used for advanced prostate cancer may have a role to play in earlier localised cancers, especially those with high-risk features, and this hypothesis can be actively tested,” Professor Frydenberg said.

The world-class cancer genomics facility at Monash Institute of Medical Research, funded by a $1.6M ACRF grant, will greatly assist in the further development and follow-up of these studies.