Scientists from Sweden are working on a treatment which attacks stem cell-like cells in prostate cancer. The technology could be useful for prostate cancer patients who do not respond to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, the scientists informed in the journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers, from Lund University and Skåne University Hospital in Malmö, both in Sweden, have been developing a therapy that works by targeting a protein in prostate cancer stem cells. The STAT3 protein is vital for the growth and regeneration of the stem cells.

Galiellalactone, a natural compound, inhibits the activity of STAT3, i.e. it undermines the growth of prostate cancer.

The discovery, which is still in its early stages, is a number of years away from entering clinical practice, the authors stress. However, they believe their findings will help in the creation of new medications which could improve prostate cancer treatment considerably.

By using galiellalactone, the authors say that new specific STAT3-inhibitors may be developed which attack the stem cell-like cancer cells in prostate cancer, effectively preventing the tumor from growing and spreading.

Professor Anders Bjartell, from the Faculty of Medicine's division for Urological Cancer Research, Skåne University Hospital in Malmö, said:

"Prostatic tumours are thought to consist only of about 0.1 per cent cancer stem cells, but if you are not successful in eradicating that tumour cell population, there is a risk of subsequent uncontrolled growth of the tumour. The cancer stem cells are often unresponsive to both hormonal treatment and to chemotherapy, so it is essential to develop a direct treatment towards all types of cancer cells."

The authors concluded:

"These findings emphasize that targeting the STAT3 pathway in prostate cancer cells, including prostate cancer stem cell-like cells, is a promising therapeutic approach and that galiellalactone is an interesting compound for the development of future prostate cancer drugs."



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