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July
2019
July
2019

IOR study reveals new way to eliminate cancer stem cells in prostate cancer

Tumor stem cells from prostate cancer. The coloring with different fluorochromes highlights the extensive network of mitochondria (red/green) surrounding the cell nuclei (blue).
Tumor stem cells from prostate cancer. The coloring with different fluorochromes highlights the extensive network of mitochondria (red/green) surrounding the cell nuclei (blue).

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A study by investigators at the Institute of Oncology Research (IOR, affiliated to USI Università della Svizzera italiana) reveals a new way to eliminate cancer stem cells (CSC) in prostate tumours and enhance treatment efficacy. The study is published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism.

Prostate cancer is a leading cause of death in developed countries. After initial response to hormonal therapies, many patients develop highly aggressive, hormone-refractory tumours for which there are currently limited therapeutic options. Investigators at the Institute of Oncology Research in Bellinzona, directed by Prof. Carlo V. Catapano, have uncovered a novel mechanism that promotes expansion of CSCs in prostate cancer by controlling mitochondrial division and showed that blocking this process leads to the progressive loss of CSCs and has a dramatic impact on tumour growth in multiple prostate cancer models. The investigators at IOR found that BRD4, a protein that regulates activity of genes by binding to chromatin, controls the survival and expansion of prostate CSCs by promoting mitochondrial fission.

As Dr. Catapano explains: “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”.

The study “Epigenetic control of mitochondrial fission enables self-renewal of stem-like tumour cells in human prostate cancer” was a collaborative effort between the IOR teams of Experimental Therapeutics (Prof. Carlo Catapano) and Prostate Cancer Biology (Dr. Giuseppina Carbone), and investigators from the Oncology Therapeutics Development (Prof. Esteban Cvitkovic, Dr. Maria Eugenia Riveiro), a French CRO specialized in early drug development in oncology. The work was funded by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Swiss Cancer League (KLS) and the Ticino Foundation for Cancer Research.

The Institute of Oncology Research (IOR), directed by Prof. Carlo Catapano, was established in 2003 as part of the Research Division of the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland IOSI, and is the main institute for basic and translational research in Oncology in Southern Switzerland. Form January 2017, the IOR is an affiliate institute of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at USI Università della Svizzera Italiana (www.ior.usi.ch).

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