Iron treatment that could eliminate treatment-resistant prostate cancers

The Prostate cancer, most common in males, can be particularly vindictive. Although it has a relatively good prognosis, there are cases where come back after therapy and this time without responding to any treatment.

The toxic effect of iron

However, there may still be an alternative. A team of researchers from Augusta University School of Medicine in Georgia is working on a breakthrough treatment that could kill this cancer… using iron.

It is well known that iron plays a fundamental role in the proper functioning of the human body, allowing the red blood cells in our blood to transport oxygen to where it needs to go. In the same way, we know that in high doses it is deadly to cells and, ultimately, for the person.

This last premise is the basis of the work, sponsored by the United States Department of Defense, which seeks to find a strategy for using these lethal effects on cancer cells.

Drug cocktail and epigenetic manipulation

As announced by the science news portal Eurek Alert!, The main difficulty is that prostate cancer cells are particularly resistant to the harmful effects of excess iron (which are mainly due to a chemical process called lipid peroxidation, which damages certain substances essential for cellular life).

Therefore, this type of cancer is difficult to treat with drugs that produce ferroptosis (excess iron) in the cells. However, these researchers believe they have found a way around this obstacle by manipulating a gene that regulates cellular stress, ATF3. The idea is that if the mechanism that allows cancer cells to ignore cellular stress can be circumvented, these they will become vulnerable to ferroptosis.

Thus, they conclude that inhibiting this mechanism and simultaneously using a cocktail of drugs with different effects (for example, one that facilitates the release of iron from places in the body where it occurs naturally, such as hemoglobin, and another that that it achieves is precisely inhibit ferroptosis to some extent in healthy cells).

The main architects of the strategy have already succeeded in sensitizing cancer cells to ferroptosis increase ATF3 gene expression. Based on these results, they are now embarking on the process of testing this line of treatment in animal models, specifically mice with cancers of this class.


Georgia Medical College at Augusta University. Kill resistant prostate cancer with iron. Eurek alert! (2022). Accessed online at on July 15, 2022.

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