Skip to content

Revolutionary breakthrough in prostate cancer treatment at the University of Bern

Life sciences

12 June 2023

In an exciting turn of events in the world of cancer therapy, researchers from the University of Bern, Inselspital Bern, and the University of Connecticut have made a significant breakthrough in the fight against prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most prevalent non-skin cancer in men worldwide, with an estimated one in six men diagnosed during their lifetime. Globally, more than 375,000 patients succumb to this disease each year. Current therapeutic strategies often fail due to the development of tumor resistance, underscoring the urgent need for innovative therapies.

The joint effort by researchers led by Mark Rubin from the Department for Biomedical Research (DBMR) at the University of Bern and Rahul Kanadia from the University of Connecticut, has now identified a previously unknown vulnerability in prostate cancer cells, which is also suspected to exist in other cancer cells.

The researchers turned their focus to a particular molecular machine named the spliceosome. The spliceosome plays a pivotal role in the conversion of genes into proteins, a process known as splicing, which is essential for cell growth, a process that goes awry in cancer.

“Investigating this area, we found significant evidence pointing to the central role of the minor spliceosome in cancer,” explains Rahul Kanadia, a study co-author from the University of Connecticut. They discovered that a specific component of the minor spliceosome was significantly increased in advanced prostate cancer, suggesting that cancer cells might stimulate uncontrolled cell growth by activating the minor spliceosome through this component.

A milestone in cancer therapy

The team confirmed their theory using laboratory test models, including 2D cell cultures and organoids, miniature lab-grown organs based on patient samples. Interestingly, inhibiting this specific component resulted in a more significant reduction in prostate cancer growth than current standard therapies, marking an unprecedented breakthrough in cancer therapy.

“This discovery is a potential game changer in developing more effective, targeted combination therapies for cancers such as prostate cancer and potentially other types. We aim to delve deeper into this in the coming years,” states Mark Rubin, who also revealed they have applied for a patent.

This groundbreaking research received USD 1 million in funding from the US Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) as part of the Igor Tulchinsky-Leerom Segal-PCF Challenge Award 2022. PCF’s Chief Science Officer, Howard R. Soule, proudly commended the research team, stating, “We proudly support their work to bring us closer to our mission to eliminate death and suffering from prostate cancer.” This pioneering discovery could indeed represent a milestone in cancer therapy.