Stem cell link to prostate cancer

17 September 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

lab–mouse.jpgA new study identifies a stem cell that may cause some types of prostate cancer, at least in mice. Called CARNs (castrion-resistant Nkx2.1-expressing cells), they are responsible for creating luminal cells, which secrete chemicals into the prostate.

When they inactivated certain tumour suppressor genes in the CARN cells of the mice, the team saw out-of-control growth of the luminal cells, which can lead to the formation of a tumour. The study also found that the cells did not rely on male sex hormones such as androgens to thrive. This is surprising as it is these hormones that control normal prostate growth. However, it would explain why prostate cancer often becomes resistant over time to drug therapies targeted at androgen production.

Further studies will be needed of the exact mechanisms by which mutations can lead to unregulated growth of luminal cells, and why the tumours are not controlled by androgens. However, the study gives further insight into the mechanisms behind prostate cancer, and could lead to better-targeted therapies in future.