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 grow.
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.