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PCF-Funded Investigators Report Progress on a Promising New Treatment for a Highly Lethal Form of Prostate Cancer

By May 18, 2018No Comments

Prostate cancer cells depend on androgens to grow and thrive.  Because of this dependency, hormone therapy – the blockade of androgens and the androgen receptor (AR) – has been the cornerstone of prostate cancer treatment for decades.  As science has progressed, therapies that are better and better at blocking these male hormones and slowing the growth of prostate cancer have been developed.

Cancer however, is a slippery beast, and one way that prostate cancer adapts to these treatments, is to switch and become a different “cell type” – one that doesn’t need androgens to keep going.   Prostate cancers that continue to progress after treatment with the stronger AR-inhibiting treatments enzalutamide and abiraterone, have sometimes lost prostate cell characteristics and taken on features of neuronal cells.  This form of prostate cancer, often referred to as neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC), is rapidly lethal, and novel treatments are urgently needed.

At the 2018 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting, a study led by PCF Young Investigator Dr. Amina Zoubeidi, of the Vancouver Prostate Centre, reported progress on the development of a highly promising new treatment strategy for NEPC.   Dr. Zoubeidi and team found that BRN2, a protein that regulates gene expression in neuronal cells, is found at high levels on NEPC.  The team hypothesized that turning on BRN2 may be a tactic that prostate cancer cells use to switch to the NEPC form, and that blocking BRN2 may effectively treat NEPC or prevent it from developing.