Prostate cancer breakthrough

Scientists at the University of York have discovered the main cause of prostate cancer - opening the way for treatment to be developed that could fight against the disease.

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Cancer research marks "fundamental shift"

Research carried out by scientists at the University of York has identified the driving force behind the development of prostate cancer.

The prostate cancer research has been funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research who gave over two million pounds to the unit in August 2011 to fund a five year programme.

"This exciting discovery is another step forward in our understanding of how prostate cancer begins. Professor Maitland has detected one of the earliest possible changes in the development of prostate cancer.

"The findings mean that new therapies can now be developed which specifically target the protein identified, killing the stem cells that remain after chemotherapy while leaving healthy cells untouched."

– Kathryn Scott, Head of Research Funding at Yorkshire Cancer Research

The new discovery now means that scientists can work towards the development of drugs that specifically target stem cells and more effectively work against the root cause of the disease.

"This discovery marks a fundamental shift in our understanding of how solid cancers start. It is believed that 'root' cancer cells arise from healthy stem cells going wrong - for example certain controls can be turned off which allow the cells to keep growing and invade surrounding tissue.

"In blood cancers DNA is rearranged which results in a mutant protein that drives cancer progression.

"Although similar rearrangements have recently been discovered in solid cancers, until now, they have not been considered as stem cell functions.

"Our work has challenged this idea."

– Professor Norman Maitland, Director of the YCR Cancer Research Unit

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