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Genetic screen for prostate cancer on horizon

24 February 2014
Appeared in BioNews 743

Genetic screening could help identify men who are most likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer, a study shows.

The researchers say that men could soon be offered genetic screening for the disease so that those at greatest risk could be monitored throughout their lives, while others would avoid unnecessary treatment.

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London examined blood samples from 191 men with prostate cancer and at least three close relatives with the disease. They identified 13 mutations, in eight known cancer risk genes, that greatly increase the risk of developing the most aggressive form of prostate cancer.

'These results are exciting as they add to the growing weight of evidence that men with a family history of prostate cancer who possess certain genes may be at higher risk, providing us with another crucial piece of the jigsaw', said Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK.

He added: 'Genetic testing to predict risk could revolutionise how we treat the 40,000 men diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK'.

The discovery suggests that men could be tested for high-risk mutations in the same way that women are screened for breast cancer risk genes.

Study co-leader Ros Eeles, professor of oncogenics at the ICR, said: 'Although ours was a small, first-stage study, we proved that testing for known cancer mutations can pick out men who are destined to have a more aggressive form of prostate cancer'.

She added: 'We already have the technical capabilities to assess men for multiple mutations at once, so all that remains is for us to do further work to prove that picking up dangerous mutations early can save lives. If so, then in the future genetic testing may be needed as part of the prostate cancer care pathway'.

BBC News reports that the ICR research group is currently running a larger prostate cancer screening trial 'involving 2,000 men and testing 192 genes'.
DNA prostate test 'will predict deadliest cancer risk'
BBC News |  21 February 2014
Frequent germline deleterious mutations in DNA repair genes in familial prostate cancer cases are associated with advanced disease
British Journal of Cancer |  20 February 2014
Genetic screening can identify men with advanced prostate cancer
Institute of Cancer Research (press release) |  21 February 2014
Genetic screening could identify men with higher risk of advanced prostate cancer
Prostate Cancer UK |  21 February 2014
Prostate cancer gene test nearer for identifying high-risk men
The Guardian |  21 February 2014
Prostate cancer screening step closer: Scientists identify gene defects in at risk men
The Independent |  21 February 2014
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