Scientists at Peter Mac and Cardiff University have identified an important genetic driver of aggressive prostate cancer, which may provide a new target to develop improved treatment. 

The study, led by UK-based Dr Helen Pearson in conjunction with Peter Mac’s Professor Wayne Phillips, found that mice with mutated Pik3cagene went on to develop castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRCP). 

In further research, they also found that this effect was magnified in mice that had also lost function of their Pten tumour suppressor gene – which is implicated in many different cancers.

These mouse-based results were also confirmed when the scientists analysed data sets of genetic information from patients with CRCP – confirming that people with both PIK3CA mutation and PTEN loss generally had poorer outcomes.

Results of this extensive study – an international collaboration with scientists at Cardiff University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute - were published online in June in the journal Cancer Discovery.

It is hoped this discovery of the genetic drivers of CRCP will help to develop new treatment approaches or could be used as a prognostic marker that can help to identify which patients are more likely to need more intensive treatment.

“Most men stop responding to the initial hormone therapy and develop the aggressive CRCP, so new targeted treatments are needed to increase survival rates” says Dr Helen Pearson, a former Peter Mac scientist who is now continuing her research at Cardiff University.

“This research helps us understand more about how prostate cancer develops, and is a step in the right direction for the progression of new therapies” explains Professor Wayne Phillips, who is Peter Mac’s head of the Cancer Biology and Surgical Oncology Laboratory.

The paper titled “Identification of Pik3ca Mutation as a Genetic Driver of Prostate Cancer That Cooperates with PtenLoss to Accelerate Progression and Castration-Resistant Growth” is available online.

This research project received funding from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA). “PCFA has funded the brightest talent in prostate cancer research in Australia since 2002.  In this time PCFA’s research program has funded 36 young scientists under the Young Investigator Award category In partnership with the Movember Foundation, an investment of nearly $10 million.” says Jane Endacott, CEO of PCFA.