Scientists are touting a potential breakthrough in the treatment of prostate cancer as they uncover a new approach to reverse resistance to therapy. Prostate cancer affects more than a million men globally each year, with early diagnosis offering favorable survival prospects. However, advanced forms of the disease can develop resistance mechanisms, employing the immune system to counteract therapeutic interventions. Recent research has unveiled a promising strategy to counter this resistance, providing hope for those with limited treatment options.
The key to this innovation lies in disrupting the communication between cancer cells and healthy white blood cells. By intercepting the secret messages used by cancer cells to manipulate white blood cells, scientists managed to reverse therapy resistance in a small cohort of patients. In some cases, this approach led to tumor shrinkage or arrested their growth. These groundbreaking findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature.
Johann de Bono, a professor of experimental cancer medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research and a consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, expressed his enthusiasm about the results: “This is tremendously exciting and it suggests we have an entirely new way to treat prostate cancer on the horizon.”
The study, conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), the Royal Marsden, and the Institute of Oncology Research in Switzerland, enrolled 23 patients with advanced prostate cancer resistant to hormone therapy. These patients received a combination of AZD5069, an experimental drug designed to prevent white blood cells from infiltrating tumors, and enzalutamide, a commonly used hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
Among the 21 patients who could be evaluated, 24% exhibited signs of their tumors responding to the combination treatment. Tumor sizes decreased by over 30%, while levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a cancer marker, substantially dropped in their blood. Additionally, patients saw a reduction in circulating tumor cells and white blood cells targeted by the treatment in their bloodstream and tumor biopsies, respectively.
De Bono emphasized the wide-reaching implications of this discovery, stating, “Myeloid cells may be implicated in treatment resistance in a range of cancers, so the impact of this research could be very broad, across multiple cancer types.”
Prof Kristian Helin, the CEO of the ICR, lauded these results as a proof of principle for disrupting cancer and a novel approach to combat tumors. He expressed hope that this research could lead to effective treatments not only for prostate cancer but also for various other cancer types.
The study was supported by Prostate Cancer UK, Cancer Research UK, the Swiss Card Onco grant organization, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, AstraZeneca, Wellcome, and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the Royal Marsden and ICR, with additional assistance from the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres network.
Dr. Matthew Hobbs, the director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, welcomed the findings with great excitement and called for collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and researchers to develop new drugs based on this knowledge, eventually subjecting them to larger trials. This represents a significant step forward in translating research into practical solutions for men facing prostate cancer.