New substances to provide better diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer

2022-03-02

Researchers at Uppsala University have developed two new substances that show positive results for early detection of metastases in prostate cancer. "If only one of our two leads is successful, we hope to be able to help all men suffering from prostate cancer to longer and better lives," says Anna Orlova, Professor at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.

Anna Orlova (right) and Sara Rinne, Professor at the Department of Medicinal ChemistryAnna Orlova, Professor at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry
Anna Orlova (right) and Sara Rinne, Department of Medicinal Chemistry

Each year, more than ten thousand Swedish men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thus, it is one of our most common public diseases, and despite that healthcare is gaining access to increasingly effective treatment, it is currently the form of cancer that causes the highest mortality rate in our country. The difficulty to at an early stage detect metastases outside the prostate gland has long been one of the main challenges in cancer research, but now a new method developed at Uppsala University's Faculty of Pharmacy is showing promising results.

“When a prostate tumor begins to spread, the metastases are initially so small that they are not visible on magnetic resonance imaging. It can cause both incorrect diagnoses, incomplete surgical procedures and unnecessary suffering. Thus, we need a way to visualise every tumor before they grow too big. Our main clue is two trace elements, GRPR and PSMA, which are formed during the early stages of prostate cancer. Now, our team in collaboration with Ulrika Rosenström and Fanny Lundmark, researchers in Preparative Medicinal Chemistry at Uppsala University, has developed a substance that binds specifically to GRPR,” says Anna Orlova, Professor at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.

Ulrika Rosenström and Fanny Lundmark
Ulrika Rosenström and Fanny Lundmark

By attaching radionuclide to the substance, the smallest metastases can be located to where a SPECT or PET camera indicates increased uptake of radioactivity. The method has successfully been tried in a clinical phase I study. If it reaches healthcare, the substance is also expected to be capable to transport drugs directly to the tumor, which in turn would limit unnecessary toxic spread during treatment.

“Naturally, a complete diagnosis would be most optimal, and in parallel we have developed a molecule that binds to both trace elements during all phases of the tumor. We have already tested it on mice with positive results, and will soon continue with studies in humans. If only one of our two leads proves successful, we hope to provide healthcare the tools needed to help all men suffering from prostate cancer to longer and better lives.”

Both projects are developed within the framework of Ayman Abouzayed's doctoral studies at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.

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KONTAKT

Anna Orlova, ProfessorAnna Orlova, Professor
Faculty of Pharmacy
anna.orlova@ilk.uu.se

Text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

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Last modified: 2022-03-31