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Shedding More Light on Prostate Cancer

Scientists develop system that targets malignant cells

TUESDAY, Aug. 6, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- A prostate cancer tracking system that can detect metastases in laboratory models could lead to the development of safer and more effective gene-based treatments for advanced prostate cancer.

Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) engineered a virus, equipped with the same substance that makes fireflies glow, that identifies and travels to prostate cancer cells. The engineered virus makes prostate cancer cells appear as "hot spots," and works whether the cancer cells are in a primary tumor or in metastases still too small to cause symptoms or be detected through conventional medical scans.

The finding was published in a recent issue of Nature Medicine.

The UCLA researchers say the next step is to attach gene-based therapies to the virus, where it would carry the toxic treatment to the prostate cancer cells and kill them.

"With this method, we've shown we can deliver a targeted virus into a lab model and can demonstrate that it is expressed only in prostate cancer cells," says study author Lily Wu, Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and an assistant professor of urology and pediatrics at UCLA. "That means we can also deliver a targeted therapy to prostate cancer cells. The idea would be to deliver a toxic gene to the cancer that would not harm surrounding healthy cells."

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men. There will be about 189,000 new cases diagnosed this year, and more than 30,000 men will die of the disease, the American Cancer Society says.

More information

The National Prostate Cancer Coalition has more facts about the disease.

SOURCE: UCLA, news release, July 2002
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