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FRIDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A protein that regulates prostate stem cell self-renewal and also plays a role in the transformation of healthy cells into prostate cancer cells has been identified by U.S. scientists.
The findings, which involve the Bmi-1 protein, could prove important in efforts to find ways to control cancer growth and progression, according to the research team, from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Previous research had found that Bmi-1 is associated with higher-grade cancers and is predictive of poor patient outcomes. But until now, its role in prostate stem cell maintenance and prostate cancer have not been clear.
The UCLA study was conducted using cells and laboratory animals.
"We conclude ... that Bmi-1 is a crucial regulator of self-renewal in adult prostate cells and plays important roles in prostate cancer initiation and progression," study senior author Dr. Owen Witte, director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center at UCLA, said in a university news release.
"It was encouraging to see that inhibiting this protein slows the growth of even a very aggressive prostate cancer because that could give us new ways to attack this disease," he added.
The study was published online Dec. 2 in Cell Stem Cell.
The American Cancer Society has more about prostate cancer.