Two recent studies published by a research team from the University of Hull, showed that prostate cancer patients whose tumors are positive for a molecule called Endo180, have a higher tendency to develop a more severe form of the disease.
The studies, published in Molecular Cancer Research and The Journal of Pathology, respectively, showed that roughly 65% of patients with Endo180-positive tumors did not survive past 5 years of diagnosis. This was a significantly higher rate when compared to the 39% observed in men who were negative for Endo180.
The team also studied the mechanism behind this phenomenon, which was tightly linked to the capacity of prostate cancer to metastasize to other sites in the body.
“It’s a real Jekyll and Hyde scenario. We found that in healthy ‘non-cancerous’ prostate cells Endo180 is normally stuck to another molecule, and this pairing completely suppresses the cells from behaving dangerously. However, when we broke the two molecules apart, Endo180 completely flipped its role and actively encouraged cells to break away from each other, which is the deadly feature of those cancers that start to spread to other parts of the body”, lead author Dr. Justin Sturge, said in a news release.
Furthermore, the research team also demonstrated that upon ageing, the physical alterations in prostate tissue could trigger a spontaneous switch in Endo180 activity.
“We’ve not only shown that Endo180 is a strong predictive marker of disease severity in patients with prostate cancer, but we’ve also uncovered a potential new way to monitor and target the disease”, Dr. Sturge explained. “We believe this research will ultimately help pave the way to more personalised medicine for prostate cancer patients. Our findings suggest that if a patient has early disease that is positive for Endo180, we can help limit their disease by stabilising the protein before it ‘turns’. The next stage is developing new treatments that can do this.”
Dr. Helen Rippon, Head of Research at Worldwide Cancer Research that partially funded this study added, “Personalised medicine is a really exciting area of cancer research right now and Dr Sturge’s work shows just why that is – the potential benefits are huge. If we can target the right treatment to the right patient at the right time, then not only can we improve cancer survival, we can also reduce unnecessary treatments and side-effects for those who don’t need it.”