A genetic Achilles' heel in an aggressive type of prostate cancer has been discovered by an international team of researchers.
They say this is a vulnerability that can be attacked by a targeted drug that is already in clinical trials to treat other types of cancers.
Clinicians from Weill Cornell Medical College undertook the study to see if they could find a way to target neuroendocrine tumours, which is considered an orphan disease among other types of prostate cancer.
They used a next-generation sequence analysis to study the transcriptome, the RNA messages that tumours produce, of neuroendocrine tumors compared to adenocarcinoma prostate cancers.
A series of analyses using prostate cancer samples gathered by researchers from the U.S. and Europe concluded that the majority of neuroendocrine prostate cancers significantly overexpressed AURKA and MYCN genes, and 40 percent of these tumours also had extra copies of these genes.
Surprisingly, they also found that a smaller subset of prostate adenocarcinomas also overexpressed these genes, and 5 percent had extra copies.
"This may represent a high-risk population that could potentially benefit from screening and early intervention," Dr. Himisha Beltran, the study's lead investigator, said.
The study was recently published in Cancer Discovery.