Researchers of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Virginia (United States) have identified “We have discovered a new non-coding RNA that may be the cause of prostate cancer. This discovery could lead to new biomarkers and more effective therapies for advanced prostate cancer, ”says Dan Gioeli, the lead researcher of the work, which has been published in the journal Molecular Cancer.
This form of non-coding RNA, nicknamed ‘HULLK’ provides the blueprint or code to produce proteins. But it is a non-coding RNA, which means that it is not involved in the encoding of a protein. In contrast, non-coding RNAs play an important role in the regulation of biological processes within our cells. To be more specific, the researchers point out that it seems that ‘HULLK’ controls the growth of prostate cancer cells.
The researchers found that there is more ‘HULLK’ in the tumor samples of patients with advanced prostate cancer. They also found that reducing their level in cultured prostate cancer cells slows the growth of tumor cells. “It is these data that illustrate the potential of‘ HULLK ’to function as a biomarker and / or therapeutic target,” Gioeli details.
The production of ‘HULLK’ is regulated by the male sex hormones known as androgens. The researchers found that cells that overproduce HULLK, those associated with the most aggressive cases of prostate cancer, were actually hypersensitive to androgens.
Prostate cancer in its early stage has long been treated with androgen deprivation therapy, where the androgen level is reduced therapeutically. However, this type of therapy has many side effects that some men do not want to experience.
This discovery identifies ‘HULLK’ as a potential goal to develop new and better treatments that can avoid these side effects. In addition, the findings could allow researchers to develop blood or urine tests to determine how aggressive a patient's prostate cancer is before treatment. “There is still a lot of research to be done on how‘ HULLK ’works to realize the potential of this discovery in the clinic,” Gioeli points out.