Pinpointing Lethal DNA

Prostate cancer treatments may target PHLPP1 and AKT genes

(RxWiki News) This puzzle is millions of times more complex than the Rubik's cube. Yet scientists are getting a handle on two genes that determine the prognosis for prostate cancer patients.

The vast majority - 99 percent - of prostate cancers are not lethal. Pinpointing the one percent that is metastatic has been a major focus of prostate cancer research. Scientists have placed another piece of the puzzle.

"Scientists are zeroing in on how lethal prostate cancers develop."

Researchers are finding that the dance between two genes, if and how they appear and how they interact usually shows how aggressive a man's prostate cancer will be.

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have identified a new prostate tumor suppressor gene (one that fights off cancer) called PHLPP1. They've shown how it acts along with a well-known tumor suppressor gene - PTEN - that's damaged in about half of prostate cancer patients.

The study's leader, CSHL Assistant Professor Lloyd Trotman, Ph.D., discovered that the loss of one copy of PTEN causes tumors to form. But when two copies of the gene are missing, cells undergo a process known as senscence that  blocks cancer development.

Cancer, being the devious disease that it is, can overcome this safety valve when the so-called "master" tumor blocker - P53 - also has mutations.

Trotman says that cancer knows how to get around what he calls "cellular roadblocks."

PTEN is important because it prevents the activation of a cancer-causing gene (oncogene) called AKT. The newly identified gene PHLPP1 does the same thing and suppresses prostate tumors.

 As a result of these findings, AKT and PHLPP1 may become future targets for the development of prostate cancer therapies.

This study appears in the journal Cancer Cell.

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Review Date: 
August 28, 2011