Cells that spark off prostate cancer `identified`
London: In a major finding which may
soon pave the way for a more effective treatment for prostate
cancer, scientists claim to have identified a cell that could
be the "mother" of all prostate tumours.
Previously it was thought that a different type
of immature cell, known as a luminal cell, lay at the root of
Now, in a study, an international team has found that
samples of the "basal" cells taken from healthy human prostate
tissue triggered cancer in laboratory rodents with suppressed
immune systems, the `Science` journal reported.
For the study, the scientists began by extracting
both luminal and basal cells from non-cancerous human prostate
First, the cells were altered by inserting defective
genes into them known to trigger cancer. Subsequently, they`re
implanted into susceptible mice with impaired immune systems.
The results showed that it was basal rather than luminal cells
that initiated prostate cancer in the animals.
Senior author Dr Owen Witte of the University
of California, said: "Certainly the dominant thought is that
human prostate cancer arose from the luminal cells because the
cancers had more features resembling luminal cells.
"But we were able to start with a basal cell
and induce human prostate cancer and now, as we go forward,
this gives us a place to look in understanding the sequence
of genetic events that initiates prostate cancer and defining
the cell signalling pathways that may be at work fuelling the
malignancy, helping us to uncover new targets for therapy."
One lesson from the research was that cancer studies
based solely on "malignant" cells can be misleading, claim the
Co-author Andrew Goldstein said: "Because of the
widespread belief that luminal cells were the root of human
prostate cancer, it would have been those cells examined and
targeted to treat the disease.
"This study tells us that basal cells play an
important role in the prostate cancer development process and
should be an additional focus of targeted therapies.
"We know those cells are malignant but we don`t
know how they got there. If we understand where the cancer
comes from, we may be able to develop better predictive and
"If we had better predictive tools, we could look
earlier in the process of cancer development and find markers
that are better than the current test at catching disease