In a new study, researchers have found why a commonly used drug to treat advanced prostate cancer often stops working and turns cancer into a relentless aggressor.
They also have discovered a way to block it from occurring.
The research was conducted by Wilmot Cancer Institute scientists.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Although some early-stage types can be treated with a “watch and wait” approach, other types are higher-grade cancers that require surgery and androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).
The goal of ADT is to lower the number of male sex hormones (androgens) in the body, which fuel cancer.
An especially aggressive subtype of the disease is known as castration-resistant prostate cancer, which keeps growing despite treatment.
In the study, the team focused on the drug enzalutamide.
For men who have this aggressive form of metastatic prostate cancer and are no longer responding to chemotherapy, enzalutamide can extend survival.
In 2018 the Food and Drug Administration also approved the drug to treat men who have castrate-resistant prostate cancer that had not yet spread.
But this drug can cause side effects. One of the worst effects is making tumors resistant to treatment.
The goal of the current study was to find ways to make the drug work for longer periods and to block the dangerous pathways that lead to adverse side effects.
The researchers tested the drug on mice and identified an important molecular mechanism behind the harmful side effects. They also found a small molecule drug could stop this.
They believe that understanding and reversing the ‘switch’ that causes the side effect could prolong the lives of these patients and strongly reduce their suffering.
The lead author of the study is Jie Luo, a graduate student from the Department of Biology at the University of Rochester.
The study is published in Nature Communications.
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