Slowing down prostate cancer by starving its cells

Researchers have hit upon a potential treatment for prostate cancer – starving tumour cells of a vital nutrient that fuels their growth.

The study, conducted with lab grown human cells, reveals targets for drugs that could slow down early and late stage prostate cancer.

Current therapies include surgical removal of the prostate, radiation, freezing the tumour or cutting off testosterone supply, but there are often side effects, including incontinence (repeated urge to urinate) and impotence, reports the journal Cancer Research.

Growing cells need an essential nutrient, an amino acid called leucine, which is pumped into the cell by specialised proteins. And this could be prostate cancer’s weak link.

Jeff Holst and his team at the Centenary Institute found that prostate cancer cells have more pumps than normal. This allows the cancer cells to take in more leucine and outgrow normal cells, according to a Centenary statement.

“This information allows us to target the pumps – and we’ve tried two routes. We found that we could disrupt the uptake of leucine firstly by reducing the expression amount of the protein pumps, and secondly by introducing a drug that competes with leucine.

“Both approaches slowed cancer growth, in essence ‘starving’ the cancer cells,” Holst says.

Study co-author Qian Wang says by targeting different sets of pumps, the researchers were able to slow tumour growth in both the early and late stages of prostate cancer.

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