(NaturalNews) Androgen deprivation therapy, commonly used in the treatment of prostate cancer, may actually make cancer more likely to spread to other parts of the body, according to a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published in the journal Cancer Research.
Because prostate tumor growth is generally stimulated by male sex hormones, androgen deprivation therapy, in which those hormones are suppressed, is often given to patients in order to slow tumor growth.
Prior research has demonstrated that a protein called nestin tends to be produced by prostate cancer cells that have metastasized to other parts of the body. Nestin does not appear to be produced by cancer cells, however, in cases where the cancer has not spread.
Researchers experimented on androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. When they cut off the cells' access to androgens, the cells increased their production of nestin.
The researchers then use the technique known as RNA interference to make the cancer cells less able to produce nestin. When the cells were transplanted into the bodies of mice, they were found to be less likely to spread to other locations than unmodified cells were. The nestin-production-hampered cells were also found to have a decreased ability to move through or around other cells when compared with unmodified prostate cancer cells.
The researchers did not find any evidence that levels of nestin had any impact on tumor growth.
"What all this suggests is that nestin levels increased when prostate cancer cells are deprived of androgens and may encourage the cells to metastasize," said researcher David Berman.
But the researchers warned that there is not yet enough evidence to advise the abandonment of androgen deprivation therapy as a treatment.
The study was funded by the Evensen Family Foundation, the German Cancer Foundation, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health.