Fighting Back Against Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Thanks to generous donations, researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute are investigating a unique mode of androgen action, aiming to learn whether targeting it can impact the course of the disease. 

Prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Because this cancer is dependent on the activity of androgens, therapies that deprive the body of androgens are often successful, at least initially. Unfortunately, these therapies eventually fail despite the cancer’s continued reliance on androgen activity. Thanks to generous donations, researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute are investigating a unique mode of androgen action, aiming to learn whether targeting it can impact the course of the disease. 

Lead investigator Hannelore Heemers, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology and Member of the Genitourinary Program at RPCI, heads a team that is studying a collection of 158 genes, whose androgen responsiveness is controlled by a factor called serum response factor (SRF). The team aims to determine whether these SRF- and androgen-dependent genes play a part in prostate cancer’s invasive behavior. Taking it a step further, they hope to learn whether interfering with SRF-dependent androgen action can change the aggressive behavior of the prostate cancer cells and ultimately lead to improved outcomes.

Another part of the research focuses on the role of calcium levels in prostate cancer cells, and specifically whether the high blood pressure drugs known as calcium channel blockers may inhibit or enhance prostate cancer growth.

“By exploring and targeting different avenues of androgen action, we hope to find new ways to improve androgen-deprivation therapies for patients with prostate cancer,” says Dr. Heemers.