Have scientists found a new way to ‘switch off’ prostate cancer?

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Nov 10, 2014 22:52 IST

In a significant development revealed on Monday, British scientists have shown that the growth of prostate cancer that affects millions of men could be ‘switched off’ by targeting a key molecule with an injection.

The pioneering research by academics at the Universities of Bristol, Nottingham and the University of the West of England shows that a specific compound can inhibit the activity of a molecule which is key to how tumours form new blood vessels. The vessels are essential for the cancer cells to survive and multiply.

The findings, published in the journal Oncogene, show that targeting a molecule called SRPK1 could stop progression of prostate cancer. The scientists believe that the new treatment, shown to be effective in mice, could halt the growth of tumours in patients with prostate cancer.

SRPK1 plays a vital role in ‘angiogenesis’ — an essential process through which tumours are able to form blood vessels and obtain necessary nutrients to fuel their growth, a release from the University of Bristol said.

This process is mainly regulated by VEGF — vascular endothelial growth factor — which can activate or inhibit vessel formation depending on how the gene is controlled by a cellular process called ‘alternative splicing’.

Matthew Hobbs, Deputy Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, said, “Although it’s early days, each finding like this represents a crucial block in building up our understanding of what can slow down and stop the progression of prostate cancer.”

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