University of Missouri Targets Personalized Therapies for Prostate Cancer

Scientists and Clinicians Pool Their Knowledge to Accelerate Discoveries That Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Disease

MU is internationally recognized for health-related assets few universities can match. These include Colleges of Veterinary Medicine; Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Engineering; and Human Environmental Sciences; Schools of Medicine; Nursing; Business; Law and Health Professions; MU Health Care, the Bond Life Sciences Center; and the MU Research Reactor.

These resources foster partnerships that have resulted in MU emerging as a leader in several disciplines of comparative medicine, including oncology.

One current study explores how a specific protein’s status may allow clinicians to better identify prostate cancer progression and possibly subsequent treatment.

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is one of the earliest ways to detect prostate cancer. However, a high PSA level also can signal benign conditions such as inflammation; therefore, more reliable tests are under investigation to help urologists diagnose and treat the disease in an aging population. “Our research is focused on finding genetic biomarkers for patients at risk for more aggressive diseases and who may have a successful response to drug treatment,” said Senthil Kumar, principal investigator and assistant director of the Comparative Oncology, Radiology and Epigenetics Laboratory at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

Kumar and an interdisciplinary team identified that the testis-specific Y-like protein (TSPYL5) varied between normal patients and tumor tissues with different Gleason scores (which can range from 2-10), a tool used by pathologists and urologists to categorize the stages of cancer. This score can categorize patients based on disease aggressiveness, helping to define treatment options.

The team collected human prostate cancer samples at various stages of the disease. They discovered that TSPYL5 was present in the tissues with Gleason score of 7, but was diminished or absent in some patients with Gleason scores of 7 and above, which could predict a more aggressive course of prostate cancer progression.

“The anticipation is that we can use this biomarker for patients before they undergo any unnecessary and invasive surgeries or drug therapy plans,” Kumar said.