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Androgen Receptors Are Reprogrammed in Lethal Stage of Prostate Cancer

A recent study reveals how late-stage, hormone-independent prostate tumors gain the ability to grow without the need of hormones. The onset of hormone-independent growth marks an advanced and currently incurable stage of prostate cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men. The study focused on androgen receptors, molecules located in the nuclei of cells of the prostate gland and other tissues. Male sex hormones—androgens--bind to these receptors to activate genes that control cell growth by regulating an early phase of the cell cycle. The researchers showed that in androgen-independent prostate cancer, androgen receptors are reprogrammed to regulate a group of genes involved in the later, mitotic phase of the cell cycle, triggering rapid cell growth. They further showed that an epigenetic modification associated with the UBE2C gene is involved in this reprogramming and that overexpression of this gene is necessary for the growth of the hormone-independent prostate cancer cells. These findings provide a better understanding of prostate cancer and could identify new therapeutic targets and lead to new treatments for the lethal, hormone-independent stage of the disease, said lead author Dr. Qianben Wang. Conducted by researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and collaborating institutions, this study was reported as a featured article in the July 24 issue of Cell. [Press release] [Cell article]