Injection could ‘turn off’ prostate cancer

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Scientists at Nottingham and Bristol universities have discovered a way in which prostate cancer could be ‘turned off’ to prevent it from spreading.

They have discovered a molecule which is vital in the formation of new blood vessels. Tumours require a constant supply of blood to grow and survive. When the production of blood vessels is stopped, it stops cancerous cells from multiplying and spreading.

Scientists injected a drug into mice, three times per week, in a bid to stop molecule SRPK1 from working and found that it stopped the tumour from growing.

The co-author of the study from Bristol University’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, Dr Sebastian Oltean, said they have shown that if the SRPK1 levels in prostate cancer cells are decreased, the growth and vasculature of the tumour can be stopped.

Almost 40000 males are diagnosed with the disease annually in the UK and around 10000 cases are fatal.

Since the treatment focuses on blood vessels, it is possible that it could be used for other forms of cancer, as well as for age-related macular degeneration, which is the most common type of blindness.

SRPK1 has an important role in ‘angiogenesis’, which is a vital process whereby tumours are able to form blood vessels to obtain the necessary nutrients required to boost their growth.

By undertaking analyses of samples of human prostate cancer, researchers saw that the molecule increases as the cancer becomes more aggressive.

Exonate, a biotech company, which is a spin-out drug development division from Nottingham University, is targeting the development of SRPK1 inhibitors to use in the treatment of diseases where abnormal vessel development takes place, such as cancer and age-related macular degeneration.

This particular study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Rich Bright VEGF Research Trust and Prostate Cancer UK.

Image Credit: Nicola Sapiens De Mitri

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