New treatment option for testicular cancer that is difficult to treat
Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Some forms are particularly resistant to therapy. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now successfully tested a new drug against these severe forms of testicular cancer.
The new active ingredient can help against severe forms of testicular cancer that do not respond adequately to other therapies, according to the University of Bonn. In the studies on mice, the active ingredient successfully killed the degenerated cells and caused the testicular tumors to shrink. The study results were published in the journal "Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine".
Testicular cancer is one of the most common tumor diseases in men
According to the researchers, testicular cancer is "the most common malignant tumor in men between 20 and 40 years of age." Although this can usually be treated well, in some cases the carcinoma has little or no response to the treatment. The substance called "JQ1" could help here. This was originally intended as a possible contraceptive for men, as it prevents the sperm from maturing. But apparently "JQ1" is also suitable for use in cancer therapy.
Testicular tumors shrink due to the active ingredient
The active ingredient was supposed to be used as a kind of "pill for men", but instead it could now earn a reputation as a cancer drug. In experiments on mice, the substance successfully killed degenerate cells and shrunk testicular tumors, the scientists report under Prof. Dr. Hubert Schorle from the Institute of Pathology at the University of Bonn. In addition to researchers from the University of Bonn, scientists from the University of St. Gallen and Harvard Medical School were also involved in the current study.
Effect starts with the DNA
According to the researchers, substances such as “JQ1” influence which genes are read in the cell and which are not. The DNA should be understood here as a kind of "morse strip" with building instructions for the cell molecules, on which the so-called histones are located at regular intervals. “Histones and DNA together form a kind of shortened pearl necklace,” the scientists explain. The histones are also labeled with chemical labels - so-called methyl or acetyl groups.
Altered gene activity leads to the death of cancer cells
The scientists use the “labels” to indicate whether the “Morse strip” should be read at this point or not. According to the experts, the substance “JQ1” would block those proteins that read these histone labels. In this way, gene activity in the cell changes, emphasizes Prof. Hubert Schorle. The cancer cells are very sensitive to this and they activate a type of suicide program, apoptosis, the researchers explain.
Successful test in the mouse model
In the "testicular cancer mouse model", tumors began to shrink after JQ1 administration, explains the study author Sina Jostes. The healthy skin cells, on the other hand, seemed to tolerate “JQ1” very well, said Jostes. Although studies on humans are still pending, the current study results make the researchers optimistic. In addition to “JQ1”, other active ingredients are known that directly change the labeling of the histones. This includes, for example, "romidepsin", for which the Bonn working group was recently able to demonstrate that this also fights testicular cancer cells very effectively. The substance has already been approved for the treatment of patients with certain cancers.
Combined therapy possible
Therefore, the researchers in the current study also checked to what extent a combined treatment with the two active substances in the mice fights the tumor cells. “We were able to achieve a similar effect with relatively small amounts of both substances as with JQ1 or romidepsin alone,” reports Dr. Daniel Nettersheim from the study results. “Such a combination therapy for the treatment of testicular tumors would possibly be much better tolerated. Patients who are resistant to chemotherapy could also benefit from this, ”continues Nettersheim. Clinical studies now have to check whether this hope is true. Because studies on humans have so far not been carried out. (fp)