A new group of molecules has been identified that could be targeted to slow tumor growth in prostate cancer patients.

A 3-year research project involved the use of an advanced screening technique called RNA-sequencing, which found that hundreds of genes were affected by testosterone, according to findings published in EBioMedicine. Of the 700 genes identified, an important set that added glycans to the surface of prostate cancer cells was found. This group of genes has never been investigated before.

The results of the study suggest that testosterone changes glycans to make cancer cells more likely to grow, survive, and spread to other areas of the body. By targeting these glycans, researchers believe it may have the potential to stop tumor growth and metastasis.

“Our findings are very significant for future treatments as they identify a new group of molecules in prostate cancer which could be targeted therapeutically,” said co-lead researcher Jennifer Munkley. “Now (that) we have identified these glycans we will be able to develop strategies to inhibit them and help patients with this condition.”

According to the study, 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Authors noted that glycans have the potential to be used as part of a diagnostic test to help physicians decide which prostate cancers are in need of treatment.

“Treatments targeting glycan sugar groups have been developed for other types of illness, such as breast cancer,” Munkley said. “Our results mean these treatments could also be used for prostate cancer.”