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Gene predicts prostate cancer progression

9 June 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 262

UK scientists have linked high activity levels of a gene called E2F3 with aggressive prostate cancer. The team, based at the University of Liverpool, found that high levels of the E2F3 protein in prostate cancer samples were linked to a poor survival rate. The findings, published in the journal Oncogene, could help doctors decide how best to treat men with the disease.

Prostate cancer affects around 27,000 men in the UK every year, but there is currently no way of telling life-threatening cases from those that can be easily treated. 'A test to distinguish between aggressive tumours - the tigers and pussycats - has been the holy grail of prostate cancer research', said team leader Colin Cooper. Such a test would prevent men being subjected to invasive treatments that they do not really need, and which carry the risk of serious side effects.

The E2F3 gene makes a protein that controls the activity of another gene, called EZH2, which scientists have previously shown is involved in prostate cancer. In the latest study, the researchers studied samples of prostate tissue taken from 147 men diagnosed with prostate cancer, and followed the patients' progress for an average of six years. They found high levels of the E2F3 protein in 67 per cent of the prostate cancer samples, and that patients with the highest levels had the worst survival rates. In contrast, they could not detect any E2F3 protein in samples from men without prostate cancer.

Peter Rigby, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, welcomed the news: 'We now find ourselves in the unique and exciting position of being able to test new early markers of cancer progression, which previously had not been possible', he said. Cooper hopes that a test based on his group's findings will be available 'within the next five years'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Gene may help doctors predict killer cancers
The Independent |  9 June 2004
Gene may predict killer prostate cancers
New Scientist |  9 June 2004
Prostate cancer gene identified
BBC News Online |  8 June 2004
Scientific Breakthrough Will Help Target Aggressive Prostate Tumours
The Scotsman |  8 June 2004
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