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Computer-Simulated Study Suggests Enlarged Prostate May Actually Hinder Tumor Growth

By: Joseph Cupolo
Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2019

A somewhat surprising conclusion drawn from a recent study suggests that in men older than age 60 with an enlarged prostate, the larger prostate gland actually may impede tumor growth. The study, conducted by Guillermo Lorenzo, PhD, of the University of Pavia, Lombardy, Italy, and colleagues, was based on computer simulations in an attempt to explore the underlying mechanisms behind the interaction between benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer. However, clearly these early findings require clinical validation in humans through long-term observational study.

“The mechanical stress fields that originate as tumors enlarge have been shown to slow down their dynamics,” the researchers reported. “Benign prostatic hyperplasia contributes to these mechanical stress fields, hence further restraining prostate cancer growth.”

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, was based on a qualitative simulation study using an extension of the investigator’s mathematical model of prostate cancer. The computer simulations offered a possible explanation as to why an enlarged prostate might impede tumor growth: a prostate can only grow so much within a confined space. Thus, force accumulates and puts pressure on the tumor, thereby keeping it small.

At the end of a 1-year period, the simulations showed that the tumor growth rate of a patient with a history of an enlarged prostate “was considerably lower than in the simulation without benign prostatic hyperplasia.” When the researchers removed the history of an enlarged prostate in the program, the tumor had grown to be over six times larger at the end of the same time period.

“Current diagnosis and prognosis methods have had a hard time differentiating between patients who are under serious risk of prostate cancer and those who aren’t,” stated coauthor Hector Gomez, PhD, of Purdue University, in an institutional press release. “This has led to people getting overtreated or undertreated.”

Disclosure: The study authors’ disclosure information may be found at pnas.org.



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