A new treatment option could be available for people with aggressive prostate cancer that has stopped responding to standard therapies.
A new study, published in the journal Cancer Research, led to the identification of a new class of drugs that are designed to overcome drug resistance.
Called Hsp90 inhibitors, the new drugs target the mechanism used by prostate cancer cells to avoid standard treatment.
A team at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) found that this class of drugs is able to inactivate the mechanism and therefore allow treatment to kill the cancer cells effectively.
It is hoped these new findings will be able to support further studies into the role of Hsp90 in drug-resistant prostate cancers, as well as potentially leading to new avenues of cancer treatment.
Study co-leader Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the ICR, called it an "exciting discovery".
He explained that Hsp90 inhibitors are often called ‘network drugs’, as they are able to tackle several of the signals that are "hijacked in cancer" at the same time, rather than using just one signalling pathway.
"These drugs can hit cancer harder than those targeting only one protein and look promising for preventing or overcoming drug resistance," Professor Workman added.
Hsp90 inhibitors are just some of the new types of treatment that are being designed to fight cancer by attacking it indirectly. This is usually achieved by destabilising the proteins needed to allow cancer cells to growth and survive.
According to the new study, stopping Hsp90 also blocked production of abnormal forms of the androgen receptor, which could prevent resistance to hormone treatments. This is essential for prostate tumours, as they rely on male hormones to grow and spread.
“It’s an exciting discovery which adds a string to the bow of these cancer drugs, and means they could work against prostate cancers that have otherwise stopped responding to treatment," Professor Workman explained.
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