Galiellalactone and the inhibition of prostate cancer stem cells

A new paper just published in PLoS ONE describes a development-stage drug known as galiellalactone and how it acts to inhibit the growth of stem cell-like aldehyde dehydrogenase (LLDH)-positive prostate cancer cells.

This paper by Hellsten et al. does not describe the clinical application of galiellalactone. It is a purely scientific paper demonstrating that the drug has activity against a specific type of prostate cancer stem cell in vitro (i.e., in the laboratory). However, as far as we are aware it is one of the first papers to describe the effects of a drug designed specifically to target prostate cancer stem cells for treatment (as opposed to all prostate cancer cells).

Some in the clinical research community believe that a better way to focus on the treatment of many types of cancer is to focus on the elimination of the cancer stem cells rather than all cancer cells. They argue that it is the cancer stem cells that are what cause the cancer to continuously develop and grow, and that if we could eliminate the cancer stem cells in a patient’s body would effectively stop the tumor from growing and spreading.

This hypothesis is unproven at the present time — in cancer in general and in prostate cancer in particular — but there are strong arguments to be made in its favor. The availability of drugs that could actually be used to test this hypothesis in patients would obviously be an important step forward in the potential treatment of many forms of cancer.

Galiellalactone is a drug that appears to inhibit the STAT3 signalling pathway in prostate cancer stem cells that express active STAT3. It is therefore a highly targeted form of therapy specific to a specific subset of prostate cancer stem cells. We will need to learn a lot more before we can ascertain whether galiellalactone hold clinical potential itself — or whether it might simply be a precursor product that will need to be modified before we can develop a prostate cancer stem cell inhibitory agent that is effective and safe in  the actual management of patients with prostate cancer.

2 Responses

  1. Hello, have you looked into stem cell therapy? It seems to be very good: my friend works in a clinic in Mexico where they give embryonic stem cell treatment and she told me they get better result than anything else. What’s your thought about this kind of treatment? Most people that I talk with are scared because it’s so new!

  2. Dear Daniel:

    The term “stem cell therapy” can imply all sorts of different therapeutic methods — from traditional types of stem cell transplantation (commonly used in the management of certain types of blood cancer) to the very recent types of “engineered T-cell” therapy initially developed by Carl June and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania.

    At the present time, we are not aware of any data demonstrating that any type of stem cell therapy is effective in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, and all forms of stem cell therapy come with significant levels of risk. Several years ago it was conclusively demonstrated that traditional types of stem cell transplantation were not effective in the management of advanced breast cancer. There is no reason that I am aware of to think that this would be effective in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer and, as far as I am aware, no one has yet tested the “engineered T-cell” approach in advanced prostate cancer.

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