Achilles’ heel in prostate cancer discovered

Updated: Nov 17, 2011, 16:50 PM IST

Washington: An international team of researchers claim to have discovered a genetic Achilles’ heel in an aggressive type of prostate cancer, a vulnerability they say can be attacked by a targeted drug that is already in clinical trials to treat other types of cancers.

Clinicians from Weill Cornell Medical College undertook the study to see if they could find a way to target neuroendocrine tumours, which is considered an orphan disease among other types of prostate cancer.

They used a next-generation sequence analysis to study the transcriptome, the RNA messages that tumours produce, of neuroendocrine tumors compared to adenocarcinoma prostate cancers.

A series of analyses using prostate cancer samples gathered by researchers from the U.S. and Europe concluded that the majority of neuroendocrine prostate cancers significantly over-expressed AURKA and MYCN genes, and 40 percent of these tumours also had extra copies of these genes.

Surprisingly, they also found that a smaller subset of prostate adenocarcinomas also over-expressed these genes, and 5 percent had extra copies.

“This may represent a high-risk population that could potentially benefit from screening and early intervention,” Dr. Himisha Beltran, the study’s lead investigator, said.

The study was recently published in Cancer Discovery.