Men with aggressive prostate cancer may benefit from a new class of drug when the conventional treatments fail, said researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research.
The researchers found that the drugs, called Hsp90 inhibitors, target and inactivated a mechanism commonly used by prostate cancer cells to evade the effects of standard treatment.
The research team said that Hsp90 inhibitors are particularly promising for treating drug-resistant cancers.
But some prostate cancers create an abnormal form of androgen receptor which is not linked to the growth of hormones and therefore does not respond to standard hormone treatment. This form of resistance in prostate cancer leads to aggressive, difficult-to-treat cancers.
The current research, published in the journal Cancer Research, found that a new class of drugs reduced production of both receptors.
Professor Paul Workman, study author and chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said, "It was an exciting discovery.We call Hsp90 inhibitors 'network drugs' because they tackle several of the signals that are hijacked in cancer all at once, across a network rather than just a single signaling pathway."
"These drugs can hit cancer harder than those targeting only one protein, and look promising for preventing or overcoming drug resistance."
The next step will be to test the Hsp90 inhibitors in clinical trials on patients with aggressive, drug-resistant prostate cancer, said Prof Workman.
Prof Johann de Bono, a professor of experimental cancer medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research, said, "These drugs are already in clinical trials for several types of cancer, and I am excited that our work suggests they could also benefit men with prostate cancer who have otherwise run out of treatment options."