Cancer is a disease of cell growth, but most tumors only become lethal once they metastasize or spread from their first location to sites throughout the body. For the first time, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia report a single molecule that appears to be the central regulator driving metastasis in prostate cancer. The study, published in the July 13, 2015 issue of Cancer Cell, offers a target for the development of a drug that could prevent metastasis in prostate cancer, and possibly other cancers as well. The Cancer Cell article is titled “DNA-PKcs Mediated Transcriptional Regulation Drives Prostate Cancer Progression and Metastasis.” "Finding a way to halt or prevent cancer metastasis has proven elusive. We discovered that a molecule called DNA-PKcs (DNA-dependent protein kinase, catalytic subunit--see image) could give us a means of knocking out major pathways that control metastasis before it begins," says Karen Knudsen, Ph.D., Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Dr. Knudson is the Hilary Koprowski Professor and Chair of Cancer Biology, Professor of Urology, Radiation Oncology, and Medical Oncology at Jefferson. Metastasis is thought of as the last stage of cancer. The tumor undergoes a number of changes to its DNA - mutations - that make the cells more mobile, able to enter the bloodstream, and then also sticky enough to anchor down in a new location, such as the bone, the lungs, the liver, or other organs, where new tumors start to grow. Although these processes are fairly well characterized, there appeared to be many non-overlapping pathways that ultimately lead to these traits. Now, Dr. Knudsen and colleagues have shown that one molecule appears to be central to many of the processes required for a cancer to spread.
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