UCLA scientists discover breakthrough in prostate cancer research

Researchers at UCLA have identified a "cell of origin'' for human prostate cancer, a discovery they said could lead to better treatments and improved ability to predict and diagnose the disease, the university announced today.

According to researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, basal cells found in benign prostate tissue was found to develop into human prostate cancer in mice with suppressed immune systems -- a departure from traditional thinking that luminal cells in the prostate were the ones that led to cancer.

"Certainly the dominant thought is that human prostate cancer arose from the luminal cells because the cancers had more features resembling luminal cells,'' said Dr. Owen Witte, director of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

"But we were able to start with a basal cell and induce human prostate cancer and now, as we go forward, this gives us a place to look in understanding the sequence of genetic events that initiates prostate cancer and defining the cell signaling pathways that may be at work fueling the malignancy, helping us to potentially uncover new targets for therapy,'' he said.

Andrew Goldstein, a UCLA graduate student, said the widespread belief that luminal cells were at the root of prostate cancer, those have been the ones most-often examined and targeted to treat the disease.

"This study tells us that basal cells play an important role in the prostate cancer development process and should be an additional focus of targeted therapies,'' he said.

According to the university, more than 217,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and 32,000 will die from the disease.

KPCC wire services contributed to this report

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