Late in the course of the disease, when the prostate cancer has spread, most patients are given hormone therapy. This reduces the production of the male sex hormone and the tumour shrinks.
"The problem is that the effect is transient," says molecular biologist Heléne Gustavsson, who wrote the thesis. "Sooner or later the tumour will develop resistance to the hormone treatment and then the cancer will continue to grow, often as secondary tumours in the bones."
Tumours have to make new blood vessels if they are to grow and spread in the body. The thesis shows that the tumours that have relapsed after a patient has been given hormone therapy contain more blood vessels. The blood vessels often also look different to how they looked during the earlier stages of the disease.
Another interesting finding is that levels of a protein known as ADAMTS1 are lower in these aggressive tumours. This protein is known to inhibit the growth of blood vessels. Low levels of the protein in the tumours are associated with more blood vessels and a greater spread of the cancer.
"If we can prevent the tumour from making new blood vessels, we can also prevent the cancer from spreading," says Gustavsson. "Now that we have a better understanding of how the formation of blood vessels is controlled in this stage of prostate cancer, we are in a better position to develop medicines that suppress the formation of new vessels in hormone-resistant prostate cancer."
The research team at the Sahlgrenska Academy will now assess how these changes affect the function of the blood vessels and their sensitivity to different treatments.
Every year around 9,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in Sweden (total population: 9 M people), making it the most common form of cancer. Many of the tumours grow very slowly and have no symptoms, but prostate cancer can also be more aggressive and spread to the lymph nodes and bones. If the cancer is diagnosed early, the entire prostate gland is often removed. Other treatments include radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
For more information, please contact:
Heléne Gustavsson, tel: +46 31 342 29 28, mobile: +46 70 858 26 81, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Medicine) at the Department of Urology, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy
Title of thesis: Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer - studies on angiogenesis and ADAMTS1
The thesis has been successfully defended.
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