Australian researchers identify “castration-tolerant cancer-repopulating cells” in mouse model


According to a media release issued earlier today in Australia, “a study led by Monash University researchers has found prostate cancer cells that survive androgen withdrawal treatment. Previously unidentified, these cells are potential targets for future treatments.”

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink wishes to be extremely clear for its readers that  that the potential and actual existence of prostate cancer cells that are highly resistant to androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in patients with no evidence of metastatic disease has been well understood for decades. The existence of such “hormone refractory” cells has long been known to underlie the inevitable progress of disseminated to castration-resistant prostate cancer over time.

What Toivanen et al. appear to have been able to do (according to their article in Science Translational Medicine) is to isolate, identify, and characterize these “hormone refractory” cells using mouse xenograft modeling. They have described these cells as having quiescent, stem-like, cellular properties and refer to them as “castration-tolerant cancer-repopulating cells.”

The claim made by the researchers that

this model may be useful for revealing potential cellular targets in prostate cancer, which exist before the onset of aggressive incurable disease. Specific eradication of these regenerative tumor cells that survive castration could then confer survival benefits for patients.

is a very reasonable one. However, it would be an error to get the idea that we weren’t previously aware of the existence of cells that had these types of properties.

The two questions facing the Australian research team (and others) are now:

  • Are the cells identified in the mouse xenograft model actually the same as the “hormone refractory” cells to be found in men with high-risk prostate cancer of some type (e.g., are they the same as the cells found in the bone marrow of some patients who can appear to have been cured of localized disease but still go on to have metastatic disease some time later)?
  • Can we develop and appropriately target agents that will eliminate these “castration-tolerant cancer-repopulating cells” in man?

Clearly if these “castration-tolerant cancer-repopulating cells” and actually active in man, and if we could suppress their activity in men with progressive prostate cancer, it would increase the potential for us to be able to convert prostate cancer into a truly chronic disease.

One Response

  1. Dear Sitemaster,

    Wonderful. I’m high-risk, asked years ago for every detail and possibility, am known to easily grasp information that would be new to me, have the background to do this, and am not one to flinch at “negative” news. So why wasn’t I informed about the first bullet point? This is about the fourth important item I found out about by reading this site. Please include courses in human understanding in medical schools.

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