Australian researchers discover new treatment for prostrate cancer

March 25, 2015 09:02 am | Updated 09:02 am IST - Melbourne

Australian researchers have made a breakthrough by discovering a new treatment for prostrate cancer which can starve cancer cells.

The discovery was made by a team led by a researcher Jeff Holst at Sydney’s Centenary Institute which identified three specific nutrients that prostate cancer cells need to grow.

“What we’ve discovered this time around is that prostate cancer cells increase one of the pumps that bring a nutrient called glutamine into the cells,” Holst said, according to ABC report.

“If we can block the pumps that bring glutamine into the cells, then we can actually starve the cancer cells and stop them from growing,” he said, adding, an increase in the number of pumps provided the ability to target those pumps and selectively block the cancer cells and not the surrounding normal cells.

Holst said the next step involved identifying a drug to switch off the nutrient pump.

“And we actually together with some researchers at the University of Sydney have the first such compounds that we’re currently testing, first of all in our cell models, but also we’re moving into what are called tumour explants where we take a piece of a patient’s prostate, grow it in a dish and put these compounds on and see if it’s able to stop the cells growing in that context,” he said.

Last year, Holst had identified a nutrient pump associated with melanoma cancer cells but he said the field of research had grown enormously since then.

“The fact that there’s a big lab around the world finding these same mechanisms at work in other cancer cells is encouraging because it means if we can get these therapies into the clinic it’s going to have broader implications than just prostate cancer,” he said.

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