Research support by AICR at Queen’s University Belfast has discovered important new information about advanced prostate cancer and revealed new opportunities into how it could be treated.
In early stages of prostate cancer, the cells require androgens - the male sex hormones – to grow and multiply. Our main drug treatments for this cancer work by blocking the activity of these hormones, thus preventing the tumour from growing. However, most prostate cancers eventually become ‘androgen-independent’, meaning that the cells become able to multiply in the absence of these androgens so the drugs no longer stop the tumour growing.
Dr David Waugh and Dr Angela Seaton have found that a protein called IL-8 that is produced by prostate cancer cells may be responsible for the androgen-independent growth of advanced prostate cancers. They studied the effect of IL-8 on two types of early prostate cancer cells grown in the laboratory. In the absence of androgens, IL-8 activated the mechanism through which androgens stimulate the multiplication of these cells. When they added a drug that blocked the effect of IL-8 on the cells, it reduced the rate at which the prostate cancer cells were multiplying. This suggests that a drug of this type might be a new way to treat advanced prostate cancer.
“Researchers have been working for years to understand all of the factors that make advanced prostate cancer cells multiply.” Dr Waugh told us, “IL-8 may not be the whole explanation, but our results indicate that this protein does have a role in enabling prostate cancer cells to grow in the absence of androgens. We have shown that drugs that block IL-8 reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells and make them more sensitive to other drugs currently employed in the clinic. Our research will now further explore the benefit of blocking IL-8 in diminishing the growth of prostate tumours and whether it can make them more sensitive to other treatments.”