Scientists have discovered that a different hormonal pathway drives advanced prostate cancer than was previously thought, paving the way for developing potential drug targets against the disease.
While testosterone is generally known to stimulate the growth of the disease, advanced prostate cancer that is resistant to standard hormonal therapy actually is driven by a pathway that circumvents the male hormone, said Dr. Nima Sharifi, assistant professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study.
“Our findings will change the framework for the way people think about this disease,” said Dr. Sharifi, a researcher in UT Southwestern”s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“The general assumption is that the tumor accelerates through testosterone when, in fact, the pathway goes around it to the most potent hormone. We found the existence of this pathway in models and patients, and have shown that these resistant tumors are clearly driven by this other pathway.”
In advanced prostate cancer cases, the testosterone driving the disease is converted into a more potent hormone that accelerates tumor growth. The standard treatment has been to deplete testosterone in the tumors, but they eventually become resistant to hormone depletion because they make their own androgens, or male hormones.
The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.