Dr. Jeff Holst and his team at the Centenary Institute found prostate cancer cells have more pumps than normal, allowing the cancer cells to take in more leucine -- an essential amino acid -- and outgrow normal cells.
"This information allows us to target the pumps -- and we've tried two routes. We found that we could disrupt the uptake of leucine firstly by reducing the amount of the protein pumps, and secondly by introducing a drug that competes with leucine," Holst said in a statement. "Both approaches slowed cancer growth, in essence 'starving' the cancer cells."
First author Dr. Qian Wang said by targeting different sets of pumps, the researchers were able to slow tumor growth in both the early and late stages of prostate cancer.
"In some of the experiments, we were able to slow tumor growth by as much as 50 percent," Wang said.
Holst said the discovery may lead to a better understanding of the links between prostate cancer and eating foods high in leucine such as red meat, soybeans and peanuts.
"Diets high in red meat and dairy are correlated with prostate cancer but still no one really understands why," Host said. "We have already begun examining whether these pumps can explain the links between diet and prostate cancer."
The findings are published in Cancer Research.