Prostate Cancer's Penchant for Copper May Be a Fatal Flaw

“Like discriminating thieves, prostate cancer tumors scavenge and hoard copper that is an essential element in the body. But such avarice may be a fatal weakness.”

Researchers at Duke Medicine have found a way to kill prostate cancer cells by delivering a trove of copper along with a drug that selectively destroys the diseased cells brimming with the mineral, leaving non-cancer cells healthy.

“The combination approach, which uses two drugs already commercially available for other uses, could soon be tested in clinical trials among patients with late-stage disease.

” ‘This proclivity for copper uptake is something we have known could be an Achilles’ heel in prostate cancer tumors as well as other cancers,’ said Donald McDonnell, Ph.D., chairman of the Duke Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology and senior author of a study published Oct. 15, 2014, in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.”

Editor’s note: The two drugs mentioned in this article are not yet being tested in prostate cancer patients. However, patients may be able to enroll in clinical trials soon.

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A Bad Penny: Cancer's Thirst for Copper Can be Targeted

“Drugs used to block copper absorption for a rare genetic condition may find an additional use as a treatment for certain types of cancer, researchers at Duke Medicine report.

“The researchers found that cancers with a mutation in the BRAF gene require copper to promote tumor growth. These tumors include melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer that kills an estimated 10,000 people in the United States a year, according to the National Cancer Institute…

“Already, a clinical trial has been approved at Duke to test the copper-reducing drugs in patients with melanoma, although enrollment has not yet begun.”

Editor’s note: The scientists hypothesize that copper-reducing drugs might help fight melanoma tumors with BRAF mutations, as detected by molecular testing.