In the case of prostate cancer, the development of the disease is characterized by an overproduction of androgen hormones. One way to slow the progression of cancer is to lower this hormone level through anti-hormonal therapies. As Interesting Engineering points out, this method works in some patients, but sometimes cancer cells resist these therapies.
New discoveries made by an international research team led by the Netherlands Cancer Institute could well change the situation.
The specialists unveiled on June 27 in the journal Cancer Discovery “an unexpected potential solution” whose primary goal would not be to fight cancer, but rather to “target proteins that regulate a cell’s circadian rhythm” which is, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, a kind “internal clock”.
Go off the beaten track
In other words, they discovered that a certain class of proteins that regulate the circadian rhythm could attenuate the effects of hormone treatment. “Prostate cancer cells no longer have a circadian rhythmcomments Wilbert Zwart, one of the authors of the research. However, the proteins of the circadian clock acquire a completely new function in tumor cells during hormonal therapies: they keep these cancer cells alive, despite the treatment.”
Based on tissues from fifty-six patients with advanced prostate cancer who received three months of anti-hormonal treatment, scientists realized that “the genes that kept tumor cells alive were suddenly controlled by a protein that normally regulates the circadian clock”explains researcher Simon Linder, also in the international team.
Specialists will now work hand in hand with the Dutch Oncode Institute to find strategies to block this process, “which would increase the effectiveness of anti-hormonal therapy against prostate cancer”.
“Our discovery showed that we need to think outside the box when it comes to new treatments for prostate cancer and test drugs that affect circadian clock proteins.argues Zwart. There are already several therapies that affect these proteins, and these can be combined with anti-hormonal therapies. This track, which makes it possible to rehabilitate drugs, could save a decade of research.