New laboratory-grown prostate cancer cells could considerably increase the speed at which new drugs can be trialed.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancer in the United States, with around 164,000 new cases each year.
Surgery and radiotherapy are successful techniques in treating prostate cancer when detected on time, but is still much to learn. For instance, some cases recur or persists which normally require multiple treatments. Current drugs can be effective, but cancer cells grow so quickly that there is a constant arms race.
READ ALSO: Prostate Cancer: All You Need to Know
New anticancer agents are needed, but the development of such drugs is relatively slow.
Speeding up research
Creating and testing new prostate cancer medicines takes such a long time because prostate cancer tissue does not survive well outside of the body. Once the tissue has been extracted from a patient, it is very hard to keep alive.
Therefore, early drug screening must be carried out on overgeneralized cancer cells that are grown in a laboratory. Although these trials are useful, genuine tumor cells are by far the best way to get a solid understanding of how a drug might function in the human body.
Researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, have been looking for ways to evade this barrier. The research team, led by Prof. Gail Risbridger, has designed a way to grow tumors in the laboratory from donated tumor tissue. The resulting tissue is just as complex as the tumors found in people with prostate cancer.
READ ALSO: Blood in Semen (Hematospermia)
This access to realistic tumors means that new drugs and drug combinations can be trialed at a much quicker rate. Prof. Risbridger already has more than 20 tumors grown in the laboratory that are ready to be used for this purpose.
Prof. Risbridger recently published a paper in the journal European Urology with her colleague Dr. Mitchell Lawrence, describing how they tested existing blood cancer drugs using the new prostate cancer model with hopeful results.
Dr. Lawrence is thrilled about the findings, saying, “These lab-grown tumors have allowed us to rapidly compare different treatments and identify those that cause the most remarkable reduction in tumor growth.”
He explains that the combination of drugs they used was able to suppress “the growth of aggressive prostate cancer cells that do not respond to other treatments.”
The researchers established the Melbourne Urological Research Alliance, which brings together prostate cancer specialists including urologists, pathologists, oncologists, computer scientists, and patient representatives, to share their new method with other experts.
They boast the largest collection of laboratory-grown prostate cancer tumors, offering researchers a quicker, more effective route to trialing new ways to attack prostate cancer.
This new technique promises a faster shift for the scientists involved and better treatments for patients.