Genes breakthrough offers new hope in prostate cancer fight
NEW tests and treatments for prostate cancer could be on the horizon after the discovery of genetic code variants that triple the chances of developing the disease.
Scientists screened the DNA of tens of thousands of men to identify the nine previously unknown risk areas.
The research highlighted at least two genes that could be targets for new treatments.
One, known as NKX3.1, helps control how cells die and may have a key role in cancer.
Drugs that could help men with a defective NKX3.1 gene are already in clinical trials.
Another gene called ITGA6 – important for cell growth, movement and survival – could also be a potential drug target. When overactive it is associated with some prostate cancers.
Four scientific papers on the genetic discoveries from different international teams were published in the journal Nature Genetics.
One group led by Dr Ros Eeles, from the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey, examined the DNA of 38,000 men and found seven regions in the genetic code that increased the risk of prostate cancer.
The scientists looked at differences in more than 43,000 single letter variations in the code called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.
The research takes the total number of regions of the human genome – or genetic code blue-print – associated with a higher prostate cancer risk to more than 20. Other findings focused on a region on chromosome 8 – one of the packages of DNA that house the genes – which has been linked to prostate cancer.
Two new SNP risk variants were found at this location that independently raise likeli- hood of the disease developing.
Scientists estimate that one in 100 men carrying most of the genetic variants has a one in five lifetime risk of prostate cancer.
In comparison, the average odds of a man developing prostate cancer in his lifetime are one in ten.
Cancer Research UK's chief executive, Harpal Kumar, said: "This important research increases our knowledge of how some genes can affect men's risk of developing prostate cancer.
This is ground-breaking research that we hope will open up more avenues to diagnose, prevent and treat this disease better."
Four of the newly identified markers are to be incorporated into a genetic screening test for prostate cancer marketed by the Icelandic company deCODE.
Kari Stefansson, the company's chief executive, said: "Using our ability to put these SNPs in a population-wide context, we show that it is now possible to identify those at more than a 30 per cent lifetime risk.
"By incorporating this new, personalised gauge of susceptibility into our arsenal for improving prevention and early diagnosis, we can more effectively and accurately identify those men who would benefit most from intensive screening."
• PROSTATE cancer tends to develop in males aged over 50.
• It affects about 35,000 men in the UK each year and kills just over 10,000.
• The disease is the most common cancer in British men, accounting for a quarter of all new cases.
• Nearly all men over 80 have at least a small area of prostate cancer.
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