Researchers at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center have identified
a gene that may control the metastatic spread of prostate cancer and tumor
growth. If confirmed, the preliminary findings may eventually help doctors
identify patients whose prostate cancer is likely to spread and facilitate
more effective treatment of the disease.
"Currently, there is no way to predict the aggressiveness of prostate
cancer," says Dr. Paul B. Fisher, professor of clinical pathology,
director of neuro-oncology research, and the Chernow Research Scientist
in pathology and urology at Columbia University College of Physicians &
Surgeons. "If additional research proves that this gene is associated
only with aggressive prostate cancer, we will have a better understanding
of how to treat patients."
Dr. Fisher and his team found the gene, known as prostate carcinoma
tumor antigen-1 (PCTA-1), on the surface of human prostate cancer cells
from patients with advanced disease but not on the surface of cells from
normal prostates or from the glands of those with benign prostate disease.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, reports that PCTA-1 produces a protein known to allow cancer
cells to attach both to one another and to distant sites in the body. Both
processes are considered essential for a tumor to metastasize.
The researchers used monoclonal antibodies developed by a patent-pending
technique known as surface epitope/masking to identify PCTA-1. Dr. Fisher
believes that the antibodies could rapidly be used therapeutically. When
the monoclonal antibodies are used to treat mice bearing human prostate
cancer, they slow the growth of the cancer and disease progression, possibly
by blocking the site on the surface of cancer cells that allows them to
Additional research must be done to clarify the role of PTCA-1 in prostate
cancer. Experiments will begin soon in Dr. Fisher's laboratory to test
the effect of blocking PCTA-1 expression on cancer development.