Research could help prostate cancer patients

Glasgow University conducted the research (Photo by Phil Mislinski/Getty Images)
Glasgow University conducted the research (Photo by Phil Mislinski/Getty Images)
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SCOTTISH researchers say they have found a gene which could help doctors predict the aggressiveness of prostate cancer in patients.

Prostate cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer in the UK and being able to identify what strain of the disease a sufferer has is key to their treatment.

Cancer researchers from the University of Glasgow and Royal Philips Cancer researchers say their research, reported in the current edition of the British Journal of Cancer, could lead to more effective personalised treatment for prostate cancer and significantly reduce the number of unnecessary prostate cancer surgeries.

11,000 men die of prostate cancer each year.

It is also the most common cancer in men in the UK, accounting for a quarter of all new cases of cancer in males – around 42,000 each year in total.

The researchers examined 1,475 patient samples to learn more about the expression of a particular gene, known as PDE4D7. They found that the gene provided a valuable insight into the aggressiveness of prostate cancer, and the likely recurrence of the disease after treatment.

Professor George Baillie, of the University of Glasgow, said: “Prostate cancer, like any other cancer, is a genetic disease which is driven by the activation of cancer-causing oncogenes and at the same time by inactivation of tumor-suppressor genes.

“The gene we examined acts as a more effective biomarker to predict the aggressiveness of patients’ prostate cancer than any others which have been used before.

“Men at risk of dying from prostate cancer need early and aggressive therapy for optimal care. Those with lower-risk forms of the disease could receive more benefit from much milder forms of treatments. This biomarker gives us a much more reliable way of determining which form of treatment patients require, which could prevent thousands of unnecessary surgeries every year.”

Dr Ralf Hoffmann, of Philips Research Eindhoven, said: “Treating prostate cancer today leads to significant side effects for patients which inevitably impact on their quality of life. This breakthrough, therefore, offers hope for many thousands and may have the potential to reduce the unnecessary treatment of non-aggressive prostate cancer. Additionally, those with an aggressive form of the disease might benefit from the development of innovative therapies in the future”.

The paper, titled ‘Human phosphodiesterase 4D7 (PDE4D7) expression is increased in TMPRSS2-ERG-positive primary prostate cancer and independently adds to a reduced risk of post-surgical disease progression’, is published in the British Journal of Cancer and is available at

The research was funded by the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine, with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.