Study: New Insights into Androgen's Action Could Boost Battle Against Cancer

Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

This discovery could enhance efforts to develop better treatments for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

Investigators at UVA Cancer Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, have unveiled new information about how androgens interact with their receptors inside cells to affect gene activity.

The process is important in both certain cancers and healthy cells, according to a statement.

This discovery could enhance efforts to develop better treatments for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. Further, scientists hope to better understand how cancer and cells interact with androgen.

“Our study reveals a new mechanism for how androgen regulates communication within prostate cancer cells,” Bryce M. Paschal, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the UVA School of Medicine’s, said in the statement.

“Anti-androgen therapies continue to be the cornerstone for prostate cancer therapy,” he said. “The better we understand how androgens work, the better clinicians will be positioned to understand why it fails, and how even better therapies can be designed.”

As noted in the journal Nature Communications, Paschal and his colleagues described how a complex signaling system regulates androgen receptor activity.

The system uses a “writer” and “reader” to modify cellular proteins, similar to how a computer reads and writes information, according to the statement.

The team found that the enzyme, Parp7, is crucial to the regulation process and is part of the family of enzymes involved in important cellular functions including DNA repair. Androgens are mainly mentioned in the context of prostate cancer, but they may be important in breast and ovarian cancer.

Even though certain cancer drugs already target the enzymes for these cancers, the team’s discoveries may lead them toward the use of androgens, according to the statement.

Lower levels of Parp7 in prostate cancer that spread to other parts of the body than in initial tumors were found by Paschal and his team. These new findings could lead to improved treatments that help patients get the best outcomes.

This further suggests that a reduction in Parp7 is associated with the progression of the disease, according to the study authors.

“Our next steps will be to use preclinical models to determine the role this pathway plays in prostate cancer progression, and whether inhibition of the pathways slows disease,” Paschal said.

“We are very excited by what we have learned thus far,” he said. “Our study emphasizes there is still so much to be learned and that basic science plays a critical role in defining the molecular context for enzyme and drug action.”

REFERENCE

New insights into androgen’s action could boost battle against prostate cancer. News release. UVAHealth. May 18, 2021. Accessed May 24, 2021. https://newsroom.uvahealth.com/2021/05/18/new-insights-into-androgens-action-could-boost-battle-against-prostate-cancer/