Stopping metastasis before it even begins … Can we do that?


The idea that one could stop the initiation of prostate cancer metastasis before it even starts is fundamental to the idea that we might be able to eliminate prostate cancer as a cause of death. And it’s as true for prostate cancer as it is for nearly every other form of cancer. The problem is that we don’t yet know why prostate cancer metastasizes … and many suspect there may be more than one reason.

In a newly published article in Nature Communications, Liu et al. have laid out a hypothesis for how it might be possible to suppress the initiation of prostate cancer metastasis in at least some types of prostate cancer. The entire article is accessible on line for the interested reader (or there is a less technical summary on the ScienceDirect web site).

Basically, what Liu et al. are saying is that it may be possible to use specific types of micro ribonucleic acids (miRNAs) to suppress prostate cancer metastasis, and that their studies using a specific type of miRNA, known as miRNA-141, can inhibit tumor growth and also delay and perhaps suppress cancer metastasis in preclinical prostate cancer models. They go on to suggest that development of biosynthetic forms of miR-141 might offer the potential to “replace” low levels of miRNA-141 in men with progressive disease, and thus to target prostate cancer metastasis before it actually occurs.

Now this does not mean that miRNAs could necessarily be developed and used to stop metastasis in all patients. That is going to depend on a detailed understanding of exactly what is occurring in each particular metastatic pathway, and we don’t even know (a) how many of those already exist or (b) if one blocks one such pathway, whether the cancer can adapt and find a different pathway by which to metastasize.

The potential of using natural and biosynthetic miRNAs in the treatment of prostate cancer (and cancers in a wider context) is considerable. Making this actually work in a clinical context is going to need a lot more work over the next few years.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for bringing this very promising research to our attention! Just one minor correction: miRNA = microRNA (small non-coding RNA of ~ 20 nucleotide base pairs).

  2. Thank you Len. My error — wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was writing (as opposed to what I was reading). Error duly corrected above.

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