The Prostate cancer becomes lethal as it spreads to the bones, and the process behind this deadly feature could potentially be turned against it as a target for bone-targeting radiation and potential new therapies. In a study publish online Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, Duke Cancer Institute researchers describe how prostate cancer cells develop the ability to mimic bone forming cells called osteoblasts, enabling them to proliferate in the bone micro environment.

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate a small walnut shape gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confine to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

The radioactive isotope

Attacking these cells with radium-233, a radioactive isotope that selectively targets cells in these bone metastases; which has been shown to prolong patients’ lives. But a better understanding of how radium works in the bone was need. The mapping of this mimicking process could lead to a more effective use of radium 233 and to the development of new therapies to treat or prevent the spread of prostate cancer to bone.

Given that most men who die of prostate cancer have bone metastases; so this work is critical to helping understand this process, said lead author Andrew Armstrong, M.D., director of research at the Duke Cancer Institute Center for Prostate and Urologic Cancers.

Armstrong and colleagues enroll a small study group; which of 20 men with symptomatic bone-metastatic prostate cancer. When analyzing the circulating tumor cells from study participants; so they find that bone-forming enzymes appear to be express commonly; also that genetic alterations in bone forming pathways were also common in these prostate cancer cells.

The Bone metastases

They validate these new genetic findings in a separate multicenter trial; so involving a larger group of more than 40 men with prostate cancer and bone metastases. Following treatment with radium-223; so the researchers find that the radioactive isotope was concentrate in bone metastases; but tumor cells still circulate and cancer progress within six months of therapy. The researchers found a range of complex genetic alterations in these tumor cells; hence that likely enable them to persist and develop resistance to the radiation over time.

“Osteomimicry may contribute in part to how prostate cancer spreads to bone; but also to the uptake of radium-223 within bone metastases; also may thereby enhance the therapeutic benefit of this bone targeting radiotherapy,” Armstrong said. He said by mapping this lethal pathway of prostate cancer bone metastasis; so the study points to new targets and thus critical areas of research into designing better tumor-targeting therapies.