It has long been a mystery why some prostate cancer cells are susceptible to radiation treatment while others are not. British scientists now believe they have found the answer. Researchers at the University of York discovered that micro-RNAs, tiny molecules within cells, can regulate resistance to radiotherapy. They believe this discovery could prolong the lives of thousands of patients. The results were published in the British Journal of Cancer. Micro-RNAs regulate gene expression. Each cell in the body contains hundreds of them. Though once considered inconsequential, scientists have recently discovered that they play a vital role, activating or suppressing certain genes in cells throughout the body. The research team at York showed that these micro-RNAs could respond quickly, such as when a patient was receiving cancer treatment. Previous research revealed that there are four different types of prostate cancer cells. One of these is stem cells which resist all kinds of treatment. But scientists weren’t sure why.
York researchers looked at individual cells and discovered that some micro-RNA switched on certain genes, making prostate cancer, stem cells resistant to treatment. Others switched certain genes off making them more susceptible. Investigators believe that by turning on and off genes manually, they can make these stem cells more receptive to treatment. 30% of prostate cancer patients find their tumors resistant to radiotherapy. Future treatments that manipulate micro-RNA could significantly reduce this population. About one-third of all prostate cancer patients receive radiotherapy. This discovery could lead to more effective treatments, lower doses, less of a chance at relapse, and longer patient lifespans. Prostate cancer is something all men should be concerned about at some point. Men over 50, African-Americans and those who had someone in the family develop prostate cancer are at higher risk. Talk to your doctor about your chances of developing prostate cancer.