Virtually all cancer deaths are the result of metastasis, the point in which the disease has progressed beyond its primary site and is often resistant to treatment. This is a complex process where progressive accumulations of molecular alterations escape the initial tumor and start dissemination in surrounding areas. Even though it has been the focus of much research, there are still many elements that remain unclear.
With many of the conventional ways of examination unavailable, researchers resorted to looking for answers in an emerging field of biomedical informatics. Using a computer algorithm developed to determine which cancer genes that spread in a mouse model were most relevant to humans, they identified NSD2 as the most likely culprit.
Animal testing confirmed their theory as mice which had the gene turned off presented a significantly decreased cancer spread.
The study notes: “we have identified NSD2 as a conserved master regulator of metastatic prostate cancer progression and a robust marker of lethal prostate tumors. Our findings suggest that cross-species investigations based on analyses of de novo metastasis in GEMMs can be broadly used to elucidate mechanisms of metastatic progression and identify potential new therapeutic opportunities for treatment of lethal cancer”.
At the moment the team is examining potential drugs to target NSD2, but in the meantime they recommend doctors to begin incorporating NSD2 screening so they can start high-risk patients on anti-metastatic treatment as soon as possible.
“Currently, when a patient is diagnosed with prostate cancer, physicians can determine how advanced a tumor is but not whether the patients’ cancer will spread”, explained lead investigator Antonina Mitrofanova research member of Rutgers Cancer Institute. “If we can determine whether a patient’s cancer is likely to spread at the time of diagnosis, we can start them on a targeted treatment plan as soon as possible to decrease the likelihood of their cancer spreading”.
Prostate cancer remains one of the most common forms of malignancy in the world. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 174,000 new cases for 2019. About 1 man in 9 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.
Understanding the processes underlying the disease brings us one step closer to improved treatments, better patient care and ultimately saving lives.
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