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A New Approach in Prostate Cancer: Targeting the Cells Surrounding the Tumor

Prostate cancer treatment depends on the grade (likelihood to spread) and whether the tumor has already spread. The early stage, also known as the low-grade stage, is treated with surgery or radiation.

For locally advanced tumors (spread within the prostate area and not beyond), patients undergo surgery or radiation. They also receive androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) as part of the treatment.

ADT keeps testosterone and other hormones that the tumor feeds on, out of its reach. Unfortunately, the tumor finds a way to reach the hormones, and it feeds on them.

According to surgeons, the tumor comes back in 60% of patients with locally advanced prostate cancer. The resistance explains why researchers have come up with a new approach that guarantees heightened androgen blocking.

Physician-scientist explains, “We’ve done a lot of research on prostate cancer over the past ten years, but most of the focus has been on molecular changes within the tumor cells themselves,” he adds, “Until now, looking at the micro environment as a cause of resistance to treatment hasn’t really been on our radar.” The surgeon emphasizes that the approach focuses on the micro environment of the tumor’s source of resistance for treatment.

A tumor micro environment consists of blood vessels, noncancerous components, tissues, and immune cells. Researchers and doctors confirm that a protein in the tumor’s micro environment resists hormone treatment.

Zeda Zhang, the author of a paper that focuses on the influence of the micro environment on prostate cancer, uses cell cultures and mouse models of prostate cancer for the study.

In the study, the protein NRG1 was high in stromal cells (a cell that surrounds the prostate tumor). NRG1 stimulates HER3 protein, which encourages the growth of the tumor. It also helps cancer cells to get around the ADP hormone blockage.

The HER2 and HER3 are therapeutic targets for other cancers, but for prostate cancer, the two proteins have proved almost undefeated. However, doctors and researchers are working to come up with an effective therapy for prostate cancer.

One doctor in the study said, “It gives us a more complete picture of what’s happening, which can help us make treatment decisions in real-time and improve outcomes for those in need of new therapies.”

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