Prostate cancer is most likely to be deadly when tumor cells spread to the rest of the body. Now, researchers have identified a protein that may be able to predict a tumor's growth pattern, and thus, save the lives of many patients.
Researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are studying a protein called RKIP, which controls the ability of cancer cells to leave their original location and enter nearby blood vessels. After entering the blood vessels, cells can easily spread to the rest of the body.Results of the study show RKIP plays a vital role in vascular invasion, the term for what happens before a tumor spreads.
Tumors that produce a normal amount of RKIP are unable to spread to the vascular system. Those that lack RKIP allow for metastasis to take place.
Researchers autopsied the bodies of prostate cancer patients within hours of their deaths. The RKIP protein was not detected in any of the 22 samples of tissue where cells had spread. RKIP was detected in 10 samples of non-cancerous tissue and in 12 samples of non-metastatic cancerous tissue.
Metastatic cancer cells that were given extra RKIP showed a nearly 50-percent decrease in their ability to spread. The ability to spread almost doubled in the non-metastatic cancer cells when RKIP production was stunted. Thus, a normal amount of RKIP can keep a tumor from spreading.
Researchers say their results are promising. "These findings bring home the point that if you can stop even one gene in the cascade, you can slow the process down."