About half of all prostate cancer patients see the disease return after treatment. A protein known as BMP7 has been identified as the key to keeping tumor cells dormant and inactive.
"Scientists are working on ways to prevent prostate cancer from returning."
Kounosuke Watabe, Ph.D and colleagues at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine have demonstrated that a factor released by bone cells sings a lullaby to prostate cancer cells, and they gently fall asleep.
But when this substance - BMP7 - is withdrawn in mice, it's like an alarm clock that awakens the malignant cells to start a new day and start growing again.
The study concludes that prostate cancer patients with tumors that have BMPR2 - BMP7's binding partner - live longer without recurrence than survivors whose tumors don't have BMPR2.
This means new therapies which maintain or mimic BMP7 expression could be developed to prevent prostate cancers from returning.
This study was published November, 2011 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.