Project investigates new approach to combat prostate cancer
A research team led by the University of Adelaide will investigate how prostate cancer cells survive and reappear after drug treatment.
Dr Zeyad Nassar, from the University’s Adelaide Medical School, is the principal investigator on the three-year project, which has received USD$1,005,845 (AUD$1,594,491) in funding from the US Department of Defence.
“Drug treatment of cancer cells usually kills most cells, but the remaining cells activate survival pathways to resist therapy,” Dr Nassar said.
“Discovering and understanding the biology of these activated pathways, and then trying to design new ways to target them, will lead to the eradication of more cancer cells and avoid disease relapse.
“My work has shown that prostate cancer cells resist therapy by activating fat metabolism. In this project, I will study why the cells activate this process and how this allows the disease to progress. I will also study the effect of blocking this process on cancer growth and progression.”
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men worldwide, and the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men.
“Discovering and understanding the biology of these activated pathways, and then trying to design new ways to target them, will lead to the eradication of more cancer cells and avoid disease relapse."Dr Zeyad Nassar
One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85, and around 20,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Australia each year.
“Due to the dependence of prostate cancer cells on androgens for growth and survival, androgen deprivation therapy has remained the frontline strategy for management of advanced prostate cancer since the 1940s,” said Dr Nassar, who is affiliated with the South Australian immunoGENomics Cancer Institute (SAiGENCI) and the Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing at the University of Adelaide, and the South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).
“Although androgen deprivation therapy is initially effective in most patients, it fails to achieve an enduring remission, with the disease reoccurring an average of 18 to 20 months after treatment.
“There is an urgent need to identify and introduce new drugs that are effective in the advanced stages of the disease.”
While it can take up to 15 years for a new drug to be approved for use, Dr Nassar said two aspects of his team’s research could be applied quicker.
“Fatty acid oxidation inhibitors already developed for diabetes or other conditions of the heart and the liver could be readily tested clinically for prostate cancer,” he said.
“At the same time, I will also develop predictive tools to determine which patients may respond optimally to these agents.
“This is essential to enhance patients’ quality of life and to determine the right treatment for each patient.”