Researchers have discovered for the first time that prostate cancer can be eradicated by targeting a single enzyme called PI5P4Kα. The discoveries, which were just published in Science Advances, could help combat the growing threat of treatment resistance in prostate cancer and lead to better treatments for other cancers, such as those affecting the breast, skin, and pancreas.
This is the first time this enzyme has been linked to prostate cancer, and we expect it to be relevant to other malignancies as well, says Sanford Burnham Prebys associate professor and co-senior author Brooke Emerling, Ph.D. Utilizing as many techniques as possible to treat cancer while minimizing the risk of resistance is an essential aspect of advancing precision medicine.
As per MedicalXpress, numerous cases of prostate cancer are treatable by reducing testosterone and other male sex hormones, although 10–20% of prostate cancer cases are resistant to treatment within five years. This treatment-resistant prostate cancer can then spread to other organs and become fatal.
“Understanding how prostate cancer acquires resistance is crucial for identifying new therapeutic options to prevent or reverse prostate cancer progression,” adds Emerling. To grow, the prostate gland requires androgens or male sex hormones. In order to grow rapidly, prostate cancer hijacks the androgen signaling machinery of the prostate; hence, treatments that interfere with these pathways are successful.
“It’s surprising that we’ve discovered an enzyme that can be targeted against prostate cancer even in cases when hormone-lowering treatments are ineffective, or resistance has evolved,” adds Emerling. This could provide us with an entirely new weapon against prostate cancer and other tumors dependent on this enzyme.
An observation made by Emerling’s colleagues at the University of Bern, led by co-senior author Mark A. Rubin, motivated the investigation. Patients with treatment-resistant prostate cancer were shown to have elevated levels of PI5P4Kα, suggesting that this protein plays a role in the tumour’s ability to withstand treatment and proliferate. Using numerous prostate cancer model systems, Emerling’s team was then able to demonstrate that blocking this enzyme kills treatment-resistant prostate cancer.
“This initial observation from the patient data really piqued our interest,” explains Emerling. PI5P4Kα is a member of the PI5P4Ks enzyme family, which is involved in the metabolism of lipids, a type of molecule that contains fats, hormones, and numerous vitamins. While other areas of cancer metabolism have been intensively studied for decades, lipid metabolism has just lately emerged as a potentially effective cancer therapy.
“Treatments that target lipid metabolism could be an undiscovered gem,” adds Emerling. “Researchers are currently particularly interested in this area.” We are researching medications to target this enzyme, and a number of other businesses are also developing their own therapies.
Emerling and her colleagues are optimistic about the future of this therapeutic method due to this interest. She explains, “Currently, there is no medicine in clinical trials, but I am optimistic that this will change in the near future. That would be incredible.”