A small molecule that inhibits androgen receptor signalling could be used to develop new drugs to treat advanced prostate cancer, according to a report this week in Nature Communications. As androgen receptor signalling has an important role in driving prostate cancer progression, drugs that block this pathway are an attractive prospect for treatments. At this stage, the molecule has been shown to inhibit tumour growth in a mouse prostate cancer model, and the safety and efficacy of the drug in human patients has not yet been tested.
Prostate tumours tend to be initially sensitive to treatments that reduce levels of male sex hormones, known as androgens. However, in late stages of the disease, androgen receptor signalling can become permanently activated, making the tumours androgen independent and therefore harder to treat. Ganesh Raj and colleagues designed a molecule that targets this signalling process specifically, by reducing the ability of the androgen receptor to enter the nucleus and activate gene expression. In doing so, it starves prostate cancer cells of a signal that is required for their continued growth.