Dr Boris Shorning and Dr Neil Trent from the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute
This type of cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way. Prostate cancer often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. But some men have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread. In these cases, the first symptoms of prostate cancer might be new pain in the back, hips or pelvis. This can be caused by cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Advanced (or metastatic) prostate cancer is cancer that has spread from the prostate to other parts of the body. The most common place for prostate cancer to spread to is the bones, where the cancer can damage them, making them weaker and increasing the risk of broken bones.
Understanding the primary reasons why cancer spreads, particularly in the prostate is driving new research being carried out by a team at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute at Cardiff University, where the ultimate aim is to greatly improve patient survival by stopping prostate cancer metastasis.
“Prostate cancer can be cured if caught early enough before it has spread into other organs,” says Dr Boris Shorning, Research Associate within the Institute. “However tumour cells have an ability to migrate into nearby tissues and travel around body using the lymph and blood circulation systems, a process termed metastasis. If this occurs it is much more difficult to treat the disease.
“Tumour cell migration depends on various molecular mechanisms and it is important to decipher these if we want to block metastatic disease,” continues Dr Shorning. “With funding from the Prostate Cancer Research Centre Fund, we are currently investigating a specific protein called Plexin B1 that has been previously documented to stimulate cell migration according to research done by colleagues in other groups.
“During the course of our work, it was surprising to find that Plexin B1 function might be linked to cellular mechanisms controlling cellular energy,” added Dr Shorning. “This provides an interesting new link to factors such as body metabolism and diet.”
This initial research, carried out by Dr Magali Williamson at University College London (UCL), included experiments with prostate cell cultures, which showed that Plexin B1 affects cell migration. Dr Shorning’s team are taking these findings a stage further and are currently looking at in vivo models.
Dr Williamson said:- “The occurrence of DNA sequence changes in the Plexin B1 gene together with high levels of Plexin B1 protein in prostate tumours, have implicated it as having a role in the progression of prostate cancer. The work at Cardiff is crucial to our understanding of the mechanism by which Plexin B1 contributes to prostate cancer and how it could be effectively targeted for anti-cancer therapy.”
Institute Co-investigator, Dr Neil Trent, said:- “The hypothesis was initially developed in cell cultures and we are now investigating in tissues and organs. Our research is going to provide novel data on Plexin B1’s role in prostate cancer migration in in vivo models.