According to new research presented at the UK National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference, in Liverpool, researchers studying blood samples from prostate cancer patients have found a group of circulating tumor cells that are linked to the spread of the disease.

This is the first time such cell types have been shown to be a promising marker for the spread of prostate cancer.

In a study of around 80 samples from men with prostate cancer, scientists at the Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University looked for cells that were gaining the ability to migrate throughout the body. Samples with more such cells were more likely to come from patients whose cancer had spread or was more aggressive.

Photo Lu Yong-Jie_ crop640

Yong-Jie Lu, PhD, Barts Cancer Institute.

“Our research shows that the number of these specific cells in a patient’s sample is a good indicator of prostate cancer spreading,” says lead author Yong-Jie Lu, PhD, of Barts Cancer Institute. “By identifying these cells, which have gained the ability to move through the body, we have found a potential new way to monitor the disease. If we’re able to replicate these studies in larger groups of people, we may be able to one day predict the risk of someone’s cancer spreading so they can make more informed treatment decisions.”

In the future, alongside other monitoring techniques, the cells could potentially be used as markers to monitor prostate cancer patients and predict whether the disease is going to spread.

There are around 46,500 new cases of prostate cancer each year in the UK, and around 11,000 people die from the disease each year.

Chris Parker. Photo courtesy The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

Chris Parker, BChir, MD, FRCR, MRCP, UK National Cancer Research Institute. Photo courtesy The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

“There’s a need to develop better tests to identify and monitor men with aggressive prostate cancer,” says Chris Parker, BChir, MD, FRCR, MRCP, chair of NCRI’s prostate cancer clinical studies group. “This research has found a promising new marker that could one day make it to the clinic to guide treatment decisions.”

The research was funded by Orchid Cancer Appeal, London; Angle plc, Surrey, UK; and the Chinese Scholarship Council, Beijing. The scientists used Angle’s Parsortix cell separation technology to capture the circulating tumor cells.

For more information, visit Angle.