Prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer in men around the world and, in fact, represented the fifth leading cause of cancer death in men in 2020. In about 70% of patients, prostate cancer cells travel into the bloodstream and eventually settle in the bones. This phenomenon, known as bone metastasis, gives rise to complications that seriously impair the patient's quality of life, as well as drastically reducing the chances of survival.
A group of researchers from Vall d'Hebron Research, Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and University of Barcelona (UB) have carried out a study to identify which molecules could favor bone metastasis in prostate cancer. As explained in their work, published in the journal Cancers, they have observed that tumor cells with a low expression of a specific molecule, the microRNA miR-135b, have a greater capacity to establish bone metastasis. In other words, one of the functions of miR-135b would be to avoid this complication in the more advanced stages of the disease. The results have been possible thanks to the study of patient samples from the Urology Department of the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital.
MicroRNAs are small molecules that regulate the expression of specific genes and, therefore, the cell's functioning. "Some microRNAs can promote tumor growth and others can restrict it. Therefore, if we get to know well how they work, they could represent very valuable tools to control and treat this disease," explain Dr. Anna Santamaria, head of the Biomedical Research in Urology group at Vall d'Hebron Research, and Dr. Ruth Rodríguez-Barrueco, IDIBELL researcher, and both coordinators of this work.
Dr. Mireia Olivan, now a researcher at IDIBELL and UB and first author of the study, adds that "analyzing miR-135b levels in prostate cancer cases could therefore be an indicator of the prognosis of this disease, as well as being useful when designing new treatments".