A newly-discovered protein found only in prostate cancer cells could be used as a marker of the disease and offer a new treatment target, according to a study in the British Journal of Cancer1 today (Tuesday).
Researchers, based at the University of Liverpool, found two versions of the PKCZ protein – a “normal” protein and a new, alternative protein only made in prostate cancer cells.
The new version is made by the PRKCZ gene that the scientists had previously shown contains a sequence that has the potential to influence the behaviour of prostate cancer cells, making them more aggressive.
The PRKCZ gene can make a wide range of proteins, depending on how it is copied and processed in cells. These proteins play important roles in controlling how cells behave, from regulating conditions inside the cells to their responses to the surrounding environment.
Professor Chris Foster, study author based at the University of Liverpool, said: “We’ve identified a sequence of the PRKCZ gene in prostate cancer cells that is expressed independently from the normal version, and the protein produced by this gene contains a unique active region.
“We now need to discover what role this protein is playing in prostate cancer. If it encourages aggressiveness in the disease then we may be able to develop new drugs that reduce its effects.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Each year around 40,800 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK and around 10,700 die from the disease.
Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “With more than 40,000 men now diagnosed each year with the disease there’s an urgent need to develop tests that tell us how the disease is behaving. This research opens a new window on the disease and suggests that versions of this PRKCZ gene could be playing an important role.
“This study highlights how genetically complex cancers are and shows we need to understand and use this knowledge to treat them successfully.”
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1. Yao, S et al Splice variant PRKC-ζ-PrC is a novel biomarker of human prostate cancer British Journal of Cancer (2012) DOI: 10.1038/bjc.2012.162