Cancer treatment breakthrough: Scientists find new way to prevent spread of disease

ReutersCancer cells are seen on a large screen connected to a microscope at the CeBit computer fair in Hanover, in this March, 6, 2012 file photo.

In what may be another step towards the development of life-saving treatments against cancer, scientists recently discovered a way to prevent the spread of prostate cancer to other parts of the body.

Researchers led by American scientist Dr. Karen Knudsen found a molecule in prostate cancer cells that is said to be central to many of the processes required for a cancer to spread, scientifically called metastasis.

This molecule, now being dubbed as the "lynchpin" of cancer spread, is called DNA-PKcs. It is a DNA repair kinase that is said to act like a glue to keep broken DNA pieces together to keep cells alive, instead of allowing them to self-destruct.

"Finding a way to halt or prevent cancer metastasis has proven elusive. We discovered that a molecule called DNA-PKcs could give us a means of knocking out major pathways that control metastasis before it begins," Knudsen explained.

Knudsen and her team conducted tests on mice carrying human models of prostate cancer. They found out that by suppressing the DNA-PKcs molecules, they can also block the development of metastases.

The researchers were also able to reduce aggressive human tumours in mice using an inhibitor of DNA-PKcs.

The team also analysed 232 samples from prostate cancer patients for the amount of DNA-PKcs, and found out that kinase levels are higher in those undergoing metastasis and those with poor outcomes in prostate cancer.

"These results strongly suggest that DNA-PKcs is a master regulator of the pathways and signals that lead to the development of metastases in prostate cancer, and that high levels of DNA-PKcs could predict which early stage tumours may go on to metastasise," Knudsen said.

She said her team will conduct clinical assessment to testing DNA-PKcs inhibitors.

"This new trial will be for patients advancing on standard of care therapies, and will be available at multiple centres," the doctor said.