Does Androgen Fuel Kidney Cancer, too?

Sep. 4, 2014

men laughingFor years the Urology laboratory of Chawnshang Chang, Ph.D., has been studying the role of the androgen receptor (AR) in prostate, bladder, and liver cancer – and now Chang has discovered that AR plays a key role in promoting kidney cancer as well.

In data published by the journal Cancer Research, Chang demonstrated the first evidence in cell cultures and in mice that targeting the androgen receptor might be a new way to suppress kidney cancer progression.

He’s also developing a drug compound known as ASC-J9, a chemically modified derivative of ginger, which can degrade the androgen receptor.

AR is a protein that mediates male sex hormones, which helps to explain why more men than women get liver, bladder, and kidney cancer. In a groundbreaking earlier study that underlined the gender differences, Chang’s lab showed why men with the hepatitis B virus tend to develop liver cancer more often than women with the same hepatitis B virus: The androgen receptor altered the DNA replication of the virus in men and promoted cancer.

Similarly, in the latest study investigators unearthed the potential molecular pathways by which AR controls the progression of renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer. Survival rates can be as high as 80 percent if kidney cancer is diagnosed early, but in one-third of patients the cancer has already spread at diagnosis. For this group of patients, the five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Chang is the George Hoyt Whipple Professor of Pathology. The experimental new drug, ASC-J9, is patented by the UR and was licensed to AndroScience Corp.; Chang and the UR have royalties and equity in AndroScience. To read the full study, click here.