A CELL that could be the “mother” of all prostate tumours has been identified by scientists.
Samples of the “basal” cells taken from healthy human prostate tissue triggered cancer in mice with suppressed immune systems.
The finding suggests that these cells may be the true culprits behind the disease which kills thousands of men every year.
Previously it was thought that a different type of immature cell, known as a luminal cell, lay at the root of prostate cancer.
Experts hope that the discovery, reported yesterday in the journal Science, will lead to better diagnostic tools as well as more effective treatments for the disease.
The US team began by extracting both luminal and basal cells from non-cancerous human prostate tissue samples.
First, the cells were altered by inserting defective genes into them known to trigger cancer.
Then they were implanted into susceptible mice with impaired immune systems.
The results showed that it was basal rather than luminal cells that initiated prostate cancer in the animals.
One lesson from the research was that cancer studies based solely on “malignant” cells can be misleading, said the scientists.
Each year around 35,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Britain.
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