A high consumption of fats worsens the prostate cancer prognosis, promoting the development of metastasis, according to two studies that reveal the genetic mechanisms involved in the greater aggressiveness of the tumor.
Environmental factors, such as the type of diet, interact with the genetic factors and may increase the chances of developing cancer or influence the course of the disease, and two new studies conducted in a mouse model of prostate cancer have revealed that a diet rich in fats is a key risk factor that makes this type of tumor more aggressive and promotes the appearance of metastasis.
In epidemiological studies it has been observed that the rate of death from metastatic cancer is higher in the United States than in other countries where it is common to follow low-fat diets. In addition, while the incidence of prostate cancer is around 10% in Asian-American men residing in their country of origin, among Asians residing in the United States the percentage rises to 40%, indicating that there are environmental factors that can influence the severity of the disease.
In research that has been done by scientists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the United States, new data have been discovered about the genetic mechanisms that trigger metastasis, and it has been proven that by feeding mice with a diet rich in saturated fats (of the type found in fast food, such as industrial burgers), animals developed more aggressive prostate tumors and are prone to metastasize.
Genetic mechanisms involved in the metastasis of the prostate tumor
Researchers already knew that the PTEN tumor suppressor gene plays an important role in prostate cancer, since its partial absence occurs in up to 70% of primary prostate tumors, but studies in animals had been observed that this partial or total loss was not enough to cause the progression of the disease.
When evaluating recent genomic data, they observed that another tumor suppressor gene, called PML, and that it was generally present in localized tumors, was absent in approximately one third of metastatic tumors. When comparing localized tumors that lacked only the PTEN gene with metastases that lacked both genes, the study authors found that metastatic tumors produced a large amount of lipids or fats.
A drug that blocks fat
As the main author, Pier Paolo Pandolfi, explains, this finding suggests that if this change is prevented with a drug, it may be possible to prevent the appearance of metastases and even cure metastatic prostate cancer. In fact, the researchers administered the mice fatostatin, a molecule discovered in 2009 and which is being investigated for use in the treatment of obesity, and observed that lipogenesis was blocked and that the tumors reverted and did not develop metastases.
The results of the work can help to create more adequate mouse models to study metastatic prostate cancer, favoring the discovery of new and better treatments against this neoplasm, and also provide information that can help determine if metastasis will already occur in stages initial, because the absence of the PTEN and PML suppressor genes in the tumor indicates an increased risk of progressing to metastatic disease.
With the drug that blocks fat and a dietary intervention could also improve the prognosis of these patients.