By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) – Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men after skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. If prostate cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it nearly always goes to the bones first, reports the American Cancer Society. But understanding the precise mechanism by which prostate cancer spreads has challenged researchers.
In April 2016, researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center announced a potentially key discovery: a novel function of a gene that may help prostate cancer cells metastasize to other parts of the body.
Recently published in the journal eLife and featured at the 2016 conference of the American Association for Cancer Research, the researchers’ preclinical experiments show that the gene, known as PLK1, engages in a distinctive activity. It promotes the migration of prostate cancer cells by setting in motion a process that makes metastasis easier. That process, called the “epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition,” describes what happens when the cells that line the cavities and surfaces of blood vessels and organs become skeletal stem cells that can move throughout the body and differentiate into a variety of cell types.
“Understanding how prostate and other forms of cancer metastasize is the first step in understanding the proper approach to improved treatment,” says Dr. Brad Thompson, president and CEO of Oncolytics Biotech Inc. Oncolytics’ lead compound in development, REOLYSIN®, is in late-stage clinical testing in a range of cancers, including prostate cancer.
REOLYSIN® has shown that it may preferentially replicate in cancer cells that have an “activated Ras pathway,” while sparing normal cells. This makes it intrinsically tumor selective without the need for any genetic manipulation of the agent.
Going forward, work on understanding the processes that contribute to the spread of prostate cancer may lead to better treatments for those with this disease.