Taiwan researchers find a key to prostate cancer metastasis

04/16/2021 08:51 PM
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NHRI associate researcher Chuu Chih-pin. Photo courtesy of the NHRI
NHRI associate researcher Chuu Chih-pin. Photo courtesy of the NHRI

Taipei, April 16 (CNA) Researchers at Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) have found that stimulating activity in a certain gene may suppress the ability of prostate cancer to spread to the bones, a finding they said could lead to new medicines.

Chuu Chih-pin (褚志斌), an associate researcher at the NHRI's Institute of Cellular and System Medicine, said in a statement Friday that the team's research focused on the role of the ROR2 gene, which is involved in chemical signaling that regulates cellular activity. In the statement, Chuu explained that prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in men worldwide and the sixth-most common cancer overall in Taiwan.

Many of these cases are detected early, but for cancers that have already spread, the only treatment currently available is hormone therapy, which fails in 95 percent of cases to prevent a recurrence within 1-3 yeas, Chuu said.

According to Chuu, the NHRI team used in vitro and mouse-based experiments to study how prostate cancer spreads in bone marrow, which, along with the lymph nodes, is one of the commonest sites of metastasis.

They first observed that ROR2 levels were significantly lower in metastatic tumors compared with the primary tumor (in the prostate) or in normal prostate tissues, he said.

In a follow-up experiment, the team artificially elevated levels of ROR2, and discovered that this suppressed the migration and invasion of several types of cancer cells, according to Chu. Although there are currently no medicines on the market to stimulate ROR2 expression, earlier research done by the team suggests that caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), a natural compound found in cinnamon and honey, may help to activate it, he said.

The amount of CAPE that can be absorbed from these items as food sources is relatively low, however, meaning that supplements in pill form will likely be a better option for obtaining its benefits, Chuu said.

The NHRI team's study was recently published in Cell Death & Disease, a peer-reviewed online scientific journal.

(By Chen Chieh-ling and Matthew Mazzetta)

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