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The Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund
What Allows Prostate Cancer to Invade Bone?
“While only a fraction of men diagnosed with prostate cancer die of the disease , prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in American men,” says Paula Hurley, Ph.D., the Beth W. and A. Ross Myers Scholar. This happens because some cancers leave the prostate and grow at distant sites — often, in bone. Why some cancers stay in the prostate and others are able to spread and establish themselves elsewhere is a question that scientists still haven’t answered. But if they knew what the determining factors were, they would be better able to tell which men are at risk for developing aggressive, potentially lethal cancer.
Scientists know that certain noncancerous cells that live inside prostate cancer play a role in whether the cancer stays or roams. Hurley, Assistant Professor of Urology and Oncology, and colleagues have recently shown that a protein called Asporin (ASPN) is highly expressed in normal cells that sit right beside prostate tumors. Further, “we have demonstrated that men who show ASPN expression in the prostate tumor at surgery are more likely to have recurrent prostate cancer.” ASPN, it turns out, has also been sho wn to play a role in bone health. Hurley suspects that ASPN may help facilitate cancer growth in bone by inducing “osteomimicry” — allowing tumor cells to acquire traits of bone cells, which would let them survive and even thrive in bone.
In mouse studies, Hurley aims to learn more about how ASPN promotes the spread of prostate cancer to bone, and to find out whether ASPN induces prostate cancer cells to “express traits that are specific to bone cells .”