Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prostate cancer’s need for copper may offer new treatment approach

Donald McDonnell, PhD
CANCER DIGEST – Oct. 15, 2014 – Loading up prostate cancer tumors with copper and then treating them with a drug that acts selectively on cells crammed with the mineral may provide a new treatment approach for the prostate cancer, Duke Medicine researchers say.

In a study published in today’s journal Cancer Research the new approach uses two drugs already FDA-approved for other uses, and could soon be tested in human clinical trials of men with late stage prostate cancer.

The idea of using copper for prostate cancer has been around for some time because prostate cancer tumors, as well as other tumor types, have a voracious appetite for copper. Initial efforts by the Duke team led by Donald McDonnell, PhD. chair of the pharmacology and cancer biology departments aimed to starve the tumors of copper and thereby halt their growth. 

When that proved unfeasible, McDonnell’s team reversed course. When starving the cells of copper didn’t work, they thought, “How about we boost the copper and then use a drug that requires copper to be effective to attack the tumors. It's the old if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em approach," McDonnell said in a press release.

The researchers added a copper supplement to the drug disulfiram, the combination resulted in dramatic reductions in prostate tumor growth among animal models with advanced disease. McDonnell said clinical trials of the combination therapy are planned in upcoming months.

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