Scientists have linked obesity to prostate cancer but were unable to explain exactly how unhealthy eating exacerbates the lethal disease.
Fortunately, a recent study has uncovered the connection between dietary fat and the growth of cancer cells, as well as a potential cure that would help millions of male patients.
Prostate cancer often develops when a cell loses a protective gene called PTEN. Tumors in patients without this gene are unlikely to become deadly and cancer rarely spreads to other organs unless the patient observes a high-fat diet.
A team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston has discovered that the disease only worsens when another protective gene known as PML shuts down inside the idle cancer cell triggering it to manufacture fat.
They report that this fat, which is sourced from one's diet, then serves as the cell's alternative form of protection against toxic molecules. However, it is also responsible for fueling its growth and accelerating the spread of cancer beyond the prostate.
"What this paper suggests is that fat or high-fat diets promote more aggressive prostate cancer," explains Cory Abate-Shen, interim director of Columbia University's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study.
Fatostatin Offers Hope For Prostate Cancer Patients
Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi, director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Cancer Center and Cancer Research Institute, has long studied the spread of prostate cancer in mice but his previous experiments failed to produce significant results.
The rodents used in the recent study, however, were different as their genes have been modified to emulate the spread of prostate cancer in humans. From having eating low-fat vegetarian food, they were then put on a high-fat Western diet.
This diet shift changed the course of the experiment. Mice without PTEN quickly developed tumors within their prostates that grew rapidly and spread to other parts of their bodies. Mice without PML also exhibited the same results.
The team then attempted to find a solution that would block fat production. They treated the rodents with a new obesity drug named fatostatin, which stopped the spread of prostate cancer and promoted its regression.
With the experiment's success, the scientists are now planning to conduct a clinical trial among male patients to determine if the obesity drug would work effectively against prostate cancer.
"That's really important," says Dr. Abate-Shen. "Aggressive prostate cancer is lethal, and there are no curative drugs right now."
Early Detection Of Prostate Cancer In Males
The American Cancer Society recommends that men, especially those aged 40 and above to undergo screening as soon as possible. A healthcare provider must inform an interested individual about the uncertainties, risks, and benefits brought on by early prostate cancer testing.
After this discussion, a person who wants to be screened will be tested with the prostate-specific antigen blood test. For more accurate results, a digital rectal exam may also be performed as part of the screening process.