MONDAY, Aug. 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A protein called hepsin promotes the spread of prostate cancer by causing disruption of tissue organization, says a study in the August issue of Cancer Cell.
This finding could lead to the development of new drugs that inhibit hepsin and slow prostate cancer's spread.
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle created mice with elevated hepsin levels in the prostate gland and found these mice had marked tissue disorganization of the prostate gland, specifically in a structure called the basement membrane. These mice developed more advanced tumors and had more spread of cancer to the liver, lung and bone.
"We have found that increase in hepsin expression leads to disorganization of the basement membrane and promotes primary prostate cancer progression and metastasis," researcher Dr. Valeri Vasioukhin said in a prepared statement.
"Since hepsin is an enzyme, it should be relatively easy to develop drugs specifically inhibiting hepsin activity. Previous research demonstrated that hepsin is not critical for normal cells within the body and, therefore, inhibition of hepsin with drugs is unlikely to have significant side effects," Vasioukhin added.
The National Cancer Institute has more about prostate cancer.