Prostate cancer is a very real danger among Australian men, and the third most diagnosed cancer in 2017. Whilst the survival rate is high, sitting at 95%, according to government statistics and recent trends it’s estimated that over 35,000 Aussie men will lose their lives to prostate cancer this year alone.
The high survival rate of males with prostate cancer is attributed to their ‘indolent’ nature, meaning they are localised and slow growing, resulting in early and easy detection. Despite the positive survival rates, prostate cancer still remains one of the leading causes of death from cancer.
Prostate cancers become invariably more fatal when they metastasise (this is when the cancer spreads to other areas of the body), and the chances of survival become significantly decreased. In surprising new research, scientists have found high fat diets to be significantly linked to this process.
Research published in Nature Genetics by Ming Chen of the Cancer Centre at Beth Israel Medical Centre identifies a typical Western diet as a key player in the promotion of metastasis.
"Although it is widely postulated that a Western diet can promote prostate cancer progression, direct evidence supporting a strong association between dietary lipids and prostate cancer has been lacking," said Chen.
The team of researchers looked at two tumor-suppressing genes in their study, PML and PTEN. PTEN is known to play a major role in suppressing prostate cancer in men specifically, however an absence of this gene in itself does not signal progressive growth of prostate tumors. PML however was noticeably absent in the case of high fat stores, and also progressive cancers.
"It was as though we'd found the tumors' lipogenic, or fat production, switch," explains the research.
The introduction of a chemical, ‘fatostatin’ (currently used to treat obesity), was used on test mice to determine if this could halt the progression of prostate cancer, to extremely successful results. "The obesity drug blocked the lipogenesis fantastically and the tumors regressed and didn't metastasize."
The new information opens the door to effective new treatments in stopping fast spreading prostate cancers, with researches hoping the news will assist men in taking preventative measures towards obesity. "The data are tremendously actionable, and they surely will convince you to change your lifestyle," Chen said.