Prostate cancer cells that metastasize use DNA in the uterus to form the prostate as an organ. This discovery represents a breakthrough in prostate cancer research, reports a group of researchers from the Netherlands, among others, in the scientific journal Nature Genetics . "You can compare it to a manual."

"Now that we have a better understanding of how metastases are formed, the opportunity is approaching to prevent the disease from becoming life-threatening," said cancer researcher Prof. Wilbert Zwart.

What have you discovered?

"We found that as soon as prostate cancer metastasizes, the tumor cell goes back in time to human embryonic status when the prostate was formed in the uterus. During the development of a baby in the mother's abdomen, there are specific places in the DNA signals are active so that the unborn can make a prostate. "

"You can compare it with a manual. In the embryonic phase the DNA indicates how cells develop. As soon as the prostate is 'finished', the manual goes out and remains off. Also when, for example, a tumor develops in the prostate. Until the tumor metastasizes. "

"The metastatic cells somehow remember that there was once an organ development guide and turned it on again." Wilbert Zwart, cancer researcher Dutch Cancer Institute

What happens then?

"The metastatic cells somehow remember that there was once an organ development guide and turned it on again. That's how the tumor cells hijack that system, as it were, and spread throughout the body. That was evident for every metastasis we studied the case. A great discovery. "

Why is that such a big discovery?

"Firstly, because it has never been shown before that metastatic tumor cells reactivate the DNA that has not been active since development in the uterus. Secondly, because all metastases turn on this manual. This raises all kinds of new exciting questions."

What kind of questions?

"Now that we know that prostate cancer metastases turn on an embryonic manual in the DNA, can we disrupt or block this signal? Can we disable the manual? These experiments are currently being started in our lab."

"Another question we have now: is the process unique to prostate cancer or do multiple cancers use this guide to spread? We want to do further research on that too."

What does this discovery mean for future patients?

"We hope that with this knowledge, new treatments can be developed to prevent or inhibit metastases. Our ultimate goal is that our research will contribute to fewer people dying from prostate cancer in the future."

"Of the thirteen thousand men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, three thousand die each year from the consequences of the disease. In almost all of these cases there are metastases. Metastases often make cancer an incurable disease. Now that we understand more about the the way in which tumors metastasizes the possibility of preventing the disease from becoming life-threatening. "

This research was co-funded by KWF and Alpe d'HuZes and is a collaboration of Prof. Dr. Wilbert Zwart of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, the research institute of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and Oncode Institute and Dr. Matthew Freedman of the Harvard Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. It was published this month in the scientific journal Nature Genetics .