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What is the link between obesity, cholesterol and prostate cancer?

  • Researcher: Dr Michelle Hill
  • Institution: University of Queensland
  • Award Amount: £174,742 for 3 years from June 2010
  • Cancer Type: Prostate Cancer
What is the link between obesity, cholesterol and prostate cancer?
Currently, there is a known link between prostate cancer, obesity and high cholesterol. How these conditions are linked remains unclear. A cell is covered by a cell membrane; this separates the inside of the cell from its external environment. Cholesterol is a component of this cell membrane that helps to organize the membrane into regions that are important for communication of the cell with the outside. One molecule that is controlled by cholesterol is called caveolin-1, and this molecule may play a role in aggressive prostate cancers. Dr Hill is using her Worldwide Cancer Research grant to investigate how caveolin-1 and high cholesterol are involved in prostate cancer. One theory is that the caveolin-1 molecule becomes altered in prostate cancer which causes changes in the way the cell membrane functions. These changes increase the ability of the prostate cancer cells to invade surrounding tissues and spread around the body, forming secondary tumours. Dr Hill and her team will test this theory using prostate cancer cells with or without caveolin-1 to mimic aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancers, and study how these cells respond to changes in cholesterol in their environment. As the number of obese people increases and the population continues to eat a high cholesterol diet, a better understanding of how cholesterol and caveolin-1 contribute to prostate cancer is vital. Dr Hill's team will use this system to find new molecules that could be used in diagnosis and to enable scientists to design and develop better treatments for prostate cancer in the future.
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