Congratulations to Prof. Alimonti and his Molecular Oncology team at Institute of Oncology Research in Bellinzona, Switzerland, who discovered a genetic factor that determines whether ageing prostate cancer cells either die or become more aggressive. They have now found the genetic switch that determines the fate of senescent cells: the gene TIMP1. If this gene is inactive or absent in patients, factors are released in the tumor cell which reprogram the cell and make it more aggressive and invasive.
This finding provides insights into the dual roles of tumor-associated senescence and can potentially impact the treatment of prostate cancer. Based on clinical data and genetic studies of prostate cancer patients, the scientists were also able to show that an inactive TIMP1 gene frequently occurs and correlates with lack of responsiveness to chemotherapy and a more severe clinical outcome. “The results of this research once again direct us towards personalised cancer therapy,” says the USI/ETH Professor Alimonti. “Genetic factors of the patient can in fact determine whether senescence has a positive effect on tumour growth or a negative effect in stimulating the formation of metastases“. In the latter case it is important to administer chemotherapeutic drug that induce senescence with caution. Instead, senolytic drugs that kill the senescent cells should be administered.