Monash University researchers have discovered a new way to treat castrate resistant cells in prostate cancer patients.
The findings of the study, conducted by scientists from the Prostate and Breast Cancer Research Program, have appeared in the medical journal PNAS.
Associate Dean, Research Centres and Institutes and co-author Professor Gail Risbridger said: "The research showed that drugs that activate one of the two estrogen receptors, causes cell death. Most commonly cell death in patients with prostate cancer is achieved by withdrawing androgens (male hormones) which results in castration.
"Although the bulk of the tumour is removed by castration, some cells remain and these castrate-resistant cells are the ones that give rise to recurrent incurable disease."
Using a drug, the team selectively and specifically activated the beta estrogen receptor in the prostate.
Prof Risbridger said: "It not only inhibits the growth of prostate cancer but also kills off cancer cells that are resistant to conventional treatment such as androgen deprivation therapy, more commonly known as castration therapy and does so using a mechanism that is different to castration."
The study group made the discovery in animal models, and then successfully replicated laboratory results using human cells and tissues from prostate cancer sufferers.
Prof Risbridger said: "The team at Monash University has discovered how this compound working through the beta receptors targets a small, but very important, population of cells in the tumour. It is a significant piece of the puzzle that will help medical research in this field - an achievement that could eventually enhance treatment options for patients around the world with advanced prostate cancer."
Risbridger added: "This research also has personal meaning and provides me with the imperative to conduct basic biomedical research where the fundamental outcomes such as those we describe, may ultimately translate into more effective ways to treat prostate cancer."