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Low oxygen in tumour cells leads to important discovery

Researchers at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research have discovered markers in tumour cells with low oxygen that could predict cancer progression.

Says Dr. Paul Boutros, senior investigator of the study:

“We were initially motivated by the inability to differentiate between aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancers, but our findings provide insights into how treatments might be developed for many tumour types.”

Vinayak Bhandari
The findings may also lead researchers to develop new types of treatment targeting cancer that becomes resistant because of a lack of oxygen reaching cells. 

Tumour cells thrive in environments with little oxygen, normal cells do not. This means cancer cells are often able to resist treatments and eventually spread. Researchers found several genes that mutated more often in low-oxygen cancers, and discovered new patterns of tumour growth in these cancers.

Vinayak Bhandari, lead author of the study, says that this study helped gain a comprehensive understanding of tumours, and created a biological signature that can identify which patients may benefit from more therapy.
Dr. Stuart Edmonds

Using more than 8,000 tumours from 19 different types of cancer, including prostate tumours from the Prostate Cancer Canada and Movember-funded CPC-GENE project, the findings could help doctors choose more effective treatments for each man with prostate cancer. Says Dr. Stuart Edmonds, Vice President of Research, Health Promotion and Survivorship at Prostate Cancer Canada:

“We’re filling a critical gap in personalized treatment, which is the future of care for the one in seven Canadian men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.”

“This research is opening new doors to improving outcomes for men and giving physicians the tools to select the best treatment for each patient,” he continues. “This will ultimately lead to better quality of life and an increased rate of survival.”

Dr. Robert Bristow, a former co-lead of the CPC-GENE project, says that while hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) was already known to be associated with aggressive prostate cancer, researchers didn’t yet understand exactly how it helped tumours grow in humans. “We can now start to exploit these findings into novel clinical trials to target hypoxia and abnormal genetics at the same time,” he says.
Drs. Boutros, Fraser and Bristow in their CPC-GENE lab

The study was supported by Prostate Cancer Canada, the Movember Foundation and OICR through CPC-GENE – the largest prostate cancer genomics project in the world. The project was also funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute. Tumour sample data was provided by CPC-GENE, the International Cancer Genome Consortium and The Cancer Genome Atlas project.

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Posted: 2019-01-14 2:38:04 PM


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