Research Highlight

Disrupting prostate cancer ‘homing signal’ could hold promise for new treatments

20/03/17

New research from the CDN sheds light on the cellular mechanisms which enable cancer cells to escape the prostate and spread to other parts of the body.

Published today in the journal Oncogene, the findings suggest that it may one day be possible to therapeutically disrupt the ‘homing signal’ which causes prostate cancer cells to enter the bloodstream and form secondary tumours.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with 40,000 new cases a year in the UK. Advanced ‘metastatic’ prostate cancer develops when cancer cells spread through the blood stream or lymphatic system, where they establish secondary tumours on lymph nodes or bone.

The metastatic form of the disease is currently incurable and despite advances in diagnosis, 30 per cent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer already have metastatic cancer by the time they present at the clinic.

Clinicians are currently unable to predict which prostate tumours will become metastatic and establish secondary tumours in other tissues, and which ones will remain within the prostate. Identifying a molecular pathway that contributes to this process could guide treatment by helping clinicians distinguish between the two forms of cancer, and it could also assist with singling out targets for therapeutic intervention.

A team of scientists and clinicians from the Centre for Developmental neurobiology at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and the University of Oxford examined the cellular machinery of benign and malignant human prostate tissue and human prostate cancer cell lines.

They discovered a molecular pathway that organises the cytoskeleton (a skeletal frame which gives shape to a cell) and enables cells to respond to homing signals and invade other tissue outside the prostate. At the core of this pathway are two proteins called drebrin and EB3, which control the movement of cells through the outer layer of the prostate and into the bloodstream or lymphatic system (a system of thin tubes and lymph nodes that run throughout the body and are an important part of the immune system).

"Prostate cancer cells are attracted to the tissue they invade by homing signals released from these tissues. We’ve now identified the cellular machinery that guides this process and we think these homing signals could one day be disrupted therapeutically to stop cancer cells escaping the primary tumour and invading the body to form secondary tumours."

"This research provides a really compelling example of how basic research can drive and inform translational research. Using animal models, we now need to examine how the prostate cancer homing signal could be manipulated using treatments."

Professor Phillip Gordon-Weeks, Senior author of the study

 

This work was principally supported by a grant from the King’s Health Partners Research and Development Challenge Fund.

Paper reference: Dart, A. E., Worth, D. C., Muir, G., Chandra, A., Morris, J. D., McKee, C., Verrill, C., Bryant, R. J. & Gordon-Weeks, P. R. (2017) The drebrin/EB3 pathway drives invasive activity in prostate cancer. Oncogene, in press.

Notes to editors

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London Jack Stonebridge/ 020 7848 5377 or 07718697176.

About King’s College London

King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2016/17 QS World University Rankings) and among the oldest in England. King's has more than 26,500 students (of whom nearly 10,400 are graduate students) from some 150 countries worldwide, and nearly 6,900 staff. The university is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King's has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) King’s was ranked 6th nationally in the ‘power’ ranking, which takes into account both the quality and quantity of research activity, and 7th for quality according to Times Higher Education rankings. Eighty-four per cent of research at King’s was deemed ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (3* and 4*). The university is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of more than £600 million.

King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar.

King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's lead-ing research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org