Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in male in Sweden. Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have now discovered a faster and easier way to determine who has an aggressive form of cancer, and who has not. “This may have great implications on precision medicine when treating prostate cancer, and on more cancer groups alike,” says Maréne Landström, Professor of Pathology at Umeå University.
Over 10,000 men are annually diagnosed with prostate cancer in Sweden. Out of those, 2,300 of these lives cannot be saved, whereas many others can be cured or actually carry harmless tumours. The medical services are struggling with a balancing act between detecting as many cancers as possible in good time to start treatments early, and avoiding to diagnose men with cancer when the tumour is harmless as this causes unnecessary anxiety and negatively impacts the quality of life.
Consequently, intense work is carried out at research institutes to improve the methods distinguishing cancers that require treatment from cancers that should be left untouched, or preferably should not even be detected.
The research group of Professor Maréne Landström at the Department of Medical Biosciences is busy studying just that. In this project, they have also collaborated with a research group at Uppsala University.
The Umeå researchers have now discovered a new function in specific proteins in the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signalling pathway, which is a significant path that affects how cancer cells grow and spread. This may have huge implications on the treatment of cancer since the discovery makes it possible to identify the men who are at risk of developing aggressive and life-threatening prostate cancer more easily, faster and early in the course of disease.
“We have found a new, previously unknown, function of the TGF-β type I receptor (TbRI), which is an important signalling protein in cancer cells. Previous studies have shown that TGF-β signalling is important in the development of several cancer forms,” says Maréne Landström, Professor of Pathology at the Department of Medical Biosciences at Umeå University, continuing: “But with the use of this new discovery, we can put the men with prostate cancer whose prognosis is promising at ease, and those with high-risk prostate cancer can be offered treatment sooner. Our findings and the publication is significant for a large group of patients with prostate cancer, and there is reason to believe that further patient groups will benefit from this.
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