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The Making of Medicine

Understanding Androgen to Better Battle Prostate Cancer

Our Bryce M. Paschal, PhD, has published new findings on how the hormone androgen regulates communication within prostate cancer cells – insights that could lead to better treatments for prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.

The findings detail how androgens – sex hormones – interact with their receptors inside cells to affect gene activity. The complex communication system uses a “writer” and a “reader” to modify cellular proteins – sort of like how a computer reads and writes information.

Scientists have known these modified proteins are important, but they've struggled to understand just how the proteins regulate the androgen receptors. One key, Paschal and his team discovered, is an enzyme, Parp7. Parp7 is part of a family of enzymes involved in important cellular functions including DNA repair.

Certain cancer drugs already target Parp enzymes to treat prostate, ovarian and breast cancers in patients who have mutations in DNA-repair genes. Paschal's new insights into these drugs could lead to better, more effective treatments.

“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,” he said. “We are very excited by what we have learned thus far. 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.“

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