Perhaps all too much FUS about something …

As usual, some of our friends in the media are over-hyping a recent publication about the possible effects of a protein called FUS/TLS in the progression of prostate cancer.

If you only read the stories in the Daily Telegraph or some other European newspapers, you could easily get the idea that FUS/TLS has been found to be the “protein that protects against prostate cancer.” Of course if you have a quick look at the abstract of the actual paper as published in Cancer Research, you get a slightly different story.

The FUS/TLS protein (otherwise known as the “fused in Ewing’s sarcoma/translocated in liposarcoma” protein), which normally binds to ribonucleic acid (RNA), is down-regulated in the presence of androgens. What Brooke et al. have actually been able to show is that FUS/TLS “has some characteristics of a putative tumor suppressor.” [Editor’s comment: Bold italic type added for emphasis.]  In other words, expression of FUS/TLS may have effects that result in the blockade of progression of prostate cancer under some circumstances (at least in a laboratory model).

The authors claim that their data address the question of how androgens regulate cell-cycle progression in prostate cancer, and demonstrate the potential that FUS/TLC could act as “a key link between androgen receptor signaling and cell-cycle progression in prostate cancer.”

Cynics that we are, we suspect that there is a good deal more work to be done before we can have any real clarity about the impact of this specific protein on the progression of prostate cancer. The way in which prostate cancer progresses from a localized disease to a metastatic disease is well understood to be highly complex. Many different proteins have effects on this progression.

It seems unlikely to us that activation or suppression of the activity of any one protein on its own is “the key” to the development of progressive prostate cancer. Of course it would be wonderful if we could show this to be the case … but we’ll need to see a lot more data to be convinced of this proposition.

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