Researchers funded by Prostate Cancer UK and the Medical
Research Council (MRC) have taken a crucial step forward by
identifying a gene that's potentially instrumental to the growth of
both the prostate gland and prostate tumours. Scientists believe
this discovery - published
today in 'PLOS ONE' - could lead to improvements in prostate
cancer diagnosis and treatment in the future.
The research team, from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health,
at the University of Edinburgh, made the discovery by studying
genes that control the formation of the prostate gland within
the supportive or 'stromal' prostate cells. For the first time the
team discovered that one of these genes - known as Decorin - may
have an important role in tumour growth.
Lead researcher, Dr Axel Thomson, said: "We pinpointed which
genes were active in embryonic prostate development and compared
their behaviour in the development of prostate cancer. Through this
process we were excited to discover that the presence of one gene -
Decorin - was reduced in tumours compared to normal prostate cells.
This observation suggests that Decorin's normal role may be to slow
cancer growth, which is a really exciting possibility. If our
suspicions are verified then this could mean that, in the future,
measurement of Decorin levels could become a reliable diagnostic
test for prostate cancer and also help determine how aggressive the
The finding comes as part of an ongoing body of Prostate Cancer
UK funded research exploring how the environment surrounding cancer
cells affects tumour growth.
Dr Kate Holmes, Head of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, said
"This type of early stage research is vital to help us improve our
understanding of prostate cancer development and move towards
finding better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. Every year
10,000 men lose their lives to the disease, yet we still have very
little knowledge of how prostate tumours develop and grow. It is
vital that more research of this nature is undertaken and supported
so that more clues, such as these, can be discovered."
This year, Prostate Cancer UK announced its biggest research
spend to date positioning it as the largest single funder of
prostate cancer research in the UK. With help from the Movember
Foundation, the charity will fund £7million of research per year
over the next three years as it steps up its efforts to tackle the
disease on every front.