Page URL:

Genetic clues to prostate cancer

10 April 2007
Appeared in BioNews 402

Three teams of scientists have uncovered a number of genetic variants, which can powerfully predict a carrier's risk of developing prostate cancer. One team based jointly at the University Of California and Harvard Medical School, one from the US National Institutes of Health and an Icelandic Company, deCODE genetics, have uncovered seven SNPs, which predict more than a fivefold range of risk for prostate cancer. All the studies have been published early online by the journal Nature Genetics.

SNPs are DNA sequence variations occurring when a single nucleotide - A, T, C, or G - at a specific location in the genome differs between individuals (or between paired chromosomes in an individual). It's the first glimpse into the genetic basis of a disease, which, despite intense research, has remained stoically enigmatic. 'It gives us the first real insight we've had into the cause of prostate cancer and how we might do something about it', said Dr Brian Henderson, dean of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Research has become focused on a small region of chromosome 8, which contains all of the variants. Intriguingly, all of the SNPs lie outside of the coding region of any genes, in a region previously written off as 'junk' DNA. This region, therefore, holds the secret of a potentially novel mechanism for non-coding sequence variation to alter the risk of disease.

The high risk variants are found at a much higher frequency in African American men, which may go some way to explaining the fact that they are twice as likely to die from there disease compared to other ethnic groups. 'The disease's greater prevalence among African Americans had hinted at some sort of a genetic basis for it', said Henderson, adding 'and our findings here, in this study, suggest that a large fraction of the disparity between African Americans and other populations could be due to genetic variation in this region'.

The studies have the potential to form the basis of a predictive genetic test, that could be used to siphon high-risk men into a more rigorous screening for the early signs of prostate cancer. Despite being the second largest cause of male death in Britain, mortality rates are falling due to improved screening. 'Clinical testing of these genetic variants may help us identify men who should be prioritised for early prostate cancer screening and prevention efforts', said David Reich, an assistant professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School.

DNA test will detect prostate cancer risk
The Independent |  2 April 2007
Genetic links to prostate cancer
Reuters |  2 April 2007
Study Identifies Multiple Genetic Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer
Ascribe Newswire |  1 April 2007
14 February 2011 - by Victoria Kay 
A genetic screening test could help doctors to identify men with the most aggressive types of prostate cancer, UK scientists believe. The test could save men with milder forms of the disease from unnecessary surgery and its potentially serious side effects...
14 February 2011 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
US researchers have sequenced the genomes of several prostate tumours providing new information that may help doctors to identify aggressive forms of the cancer and prioritise treatment...
18 February 2008 - by Stuart Scott 
Three studies, published in the journal Nature Genetics, have uncovered ten genes that affect a man's risk of developing prostate cancer. The researchers hope that the discoveries will form the basis of a test that will predict men's chances of developing prostate cancer, as well as providing...
21 January 2008 - by Stuart Scott 
A cheap but powerful genetic test that can identify men with a high risk of developing prostate cancer - the commonest form of cancer in males - could soon be available according to US researchers. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the screening...
11 May 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Scientists based in Iceland, the US and Sweden have discovered a common genetic variation linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. The team, based at Icelandic firm deCODE genetics, have found that men who inherit the variant have a 60 per cent increased risk of...
20 February 2006 - by BioNews 
The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) has launched a new project to identify genetic factors that influence the risk of prostate and breast cancer. The $14 million 'Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility' (CGEMS) initiative aims to identify common genetic variations associated with the diseases. The scientists will first look at...
5 September 2005 - by BioNews 
Dutch researchers have confirmed that men who inherit a faulty version of the BRCA2 gene - linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women - are at a higher risk of certain other cancers. The scientists, based at Leiden University Medical Centre, found that men with BRCA2 gene...
9 June 2004 - by BioNews 
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...
2 June 2003 - by BioNews 
The first large-scale collection of genetic information from African Americans will be based at Howard University in Chicago, officials announced last week. It plans to collect DNA samples and medical information from 25,000 black people, mainly patients at hospitals associated with the Howard College of Medicine. The database project organisers...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.