Gene activity reveals dynamic stroma microenvironment in prostate cancer

Gene / DNAHOUSTON — (June 9, 2009) – As stroma – the supportive framework of the prostate gland – react to prostate cancer, changes in the expression of genes occur that induce the formation of new structures such as blood vessels, nerves and parts of nerves, said researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in a report that appears in the current issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

In this study, using special techniques and gene chips that allowed them to sample the entire genome, the researchers found changes in 1,141 genes. They were either upregulated – meaning that there was more of the protein with which they were associated than expected – or downregulated, which meant the opposite, said Dr. Michael Ittmann, professor of pathology at BCM and a senior author of the report. These gene changes may explain why men with reactive stroma face a more aggressive disease, said Ittmann and Dr. Gustavo Ayala, professor in the departments of pathology and urology at BCM and another senior author.

"Often in prostate cancer, you don’t see much change in the stromal cells," said Ittmann. "However, in this subgroup of patients (in which the stroma become visibly reactive), you see a histologically recognizable change in the appearance of the stroma. Dr. Ayala has shown previously that this correlates with a bad prognosis. We know the stroma are doing something to promote bad behavior in cancer cells."

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