Lugano – Scientists from the Institute of Oncology Research at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) have made a breakthrough in prostate cancer research. They have uncovered a novel mechanism for isolating cancer stem cells and have consequently been able to slow down tumor growth.

Prostate cancer is a leading cause of death in developed countries. After initial treatment with hormonal therapy, many patients develop highly aggressive and resistant cancer cells that grow rapidly. According to a press release, scientists from the Institute of Oncology Research at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) have now successfully investigated cancer cell metabolism and found a way to eliminate cancer stem cells.

Professor Carlo Catapano and his team discovered that the protein BRD4 can be used to control the mechanism of cell division. The protein regulates activity of genes by binding to chromatin and can prevent the expansion of prostate cancer stem cells. “BRD4 inhibitors (BET inhibitors) are a new class of anticancer drugs in clinical trials. This study provides new information on their effectiveness and especially on the possibility of their use to eliminate cancer stem cells resistant to other treatments opening the door to new therapeutic strategies,” explained Group Leader Professor Carlo Catapano. The investigation of BRD4 is currently in the clinical experiment phase. Researchers from Prostate Cancer Biology and the Paris institute Oncology Therapeutics Development under Professor Esteban Cvitkovic are working on this study alongside the scientists from the Institute of Oncology Research.

The work is being funded by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Swiss Cancer League (KLS) and the Ticino Foundation for Cancer Research. The most recent study results have been published in the latest edition of scientific journal Cell Metabolism.

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