CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-5661; fax (319) 335-9917
Release: June 24, 1999
UI researchers develop new model for studying prostate
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- To better understand prostate cancer
and potentially find better ways to combat the condition, University of Iowa
Health Care researchers have developed a new study model.
The new, improved approach relies on a gelatin sponge
to deliver and retrieve tumor cells from rats, the traditional study models
for prostate cancer. The UI strategy makes it easier to investigate the invasive
and metastatic abilities of the different cancer cells.
"This unique rat model system allows us to probe the
role of individual components of tumor populations," said Mary J.C. Hendrix,
Ph.D., UI professor and head of anatomy and cell biology. "We can study how
the tumors modify and regulate the host immune environment to grow and spread."
Using their new model, UI researchers already have
shown that prostate cells with weak immunological responses are associated
with the primary tumor formation, while prostate cells with strong immunological
responses are not.
The UI model works like this: Researchers implant
four gelatin sponges into the rat's back. Several days later, the researchers
inject tumor cells into two of the implanted sponges and sterile solution
into the two other sponges. At designated times, the researchers remove the
sponges and analyze the cells that "attacked" the prostate tumor cells.
Although using sponges to study prostate cancer is
new, the practice is not. Researchers have relied on these sponge models to
successfully study the immune response to breast cancer tumors.
"It is widely accepted that developing tumors recruit
and infiltrate the host immune cells, but the immune response varies in aggressive
versus non-aggressive prostatic tumors," explained Hendrix, who is also the
associate director of basic research and deputy director of the UI Cancer
The UI prostate cancer model may provide important
clues into the diverse immune responses, thereby leading to better therapeutic
"The model devised by Dr. Hendrix and colleagues is
an exciting new approach to understanding the growth and development of prostate
cancer," said Richard Williams, M.D., UI professor and head of urology. "This
model will provide a unique template for studying how the host immunologic
defenses interact with prostate cancer cells and allow early testing of a
variety of innovative treatment strategies based on the new knowledge gained
by its use."