Until now, medicine had described two subtypes of prostate cancer: the androgen-dependent type, which is fueled by male sex hormones, and the neuroendocrine type, which produces hormones itself and is difficult to treat.

A team led by Yu Chen from Human Oncology

How did this common subtype of prostate cancer escape medical attention for so long? One explanation: “Prostate cancer is very difficult to grow in the laboratory,” Chen explains. While there are hundreds of cell lines for skin and lung cancer, only three or four cell lines are useful for prostate cancer.

To solve this problem, the team used a new technology: the researchers grew so-called organoids. They developed these organ-like structures in the laboratory from parts of the tumor. These provide a model of the cancerous growth of the respective patient. The researchers were able to use them to examine the genetics and biochemical processes of the cancer cells.

In addition, the team used patient-derived xenografts – tumor tissue removed from a patient and transplanted into a mouse.

Using this material, the researchers were able to determine which genes are switched on or off in the cancer cells and thus create a kind of genetic fingerprint of the tumors examined. They came across the new subtype of prostate cancer.

As a cross-check, they tested how often the gene profile was found in a biobank of 366 prostate cancer tumors. In fact, this was often the case: the newly discovered stem cell-like type was the second most common form of prostate cancer after the androgen-dependent subgroup.

This could be crucial for the future treatment of prostate cancer:

“Hormone deprivation therapy has been the backbone of treatment for prostate cancer for the past 80 years,” Chen explains. “That’s because basically all prostate carcinomas depend on testosterone signals when they are first diagnosed.” But this therapy increasingly loses momentum as the disease progresses. The tumor becomes resistant to hormone deprivation and grows.

At this point, the new findings could help to improve treatment options for many sufferers. And that could happen relatively quickly: In fact, there are already active ingredients that block the growth of the prostate cancer subtype in laboratory and animal models. A study examining the effectiveness in humans is currently being prepared.

*The post “Accounts for a third of cases: Researchers discover new type of prostate cancer” is published by NetDoktor. Contact the person responsible here.