DNA clues to fighting prostate cancer
Dozens of lines of attack against prostate cancer have been opened by the most comprehensive genetic study of the disease.
Scientists have found 80 genetic mutations that could be targeted by drugs and have identified other genes involved in helping tumours to grow.
This offers the hope not only of finding new medicines within a few years but also of improving knowledge of a relatively poorly understood disease.
Prostate cancer recently overtook breast cancer to become the third most fatal form of the disease in Australia, killing 3452 last year, behind lung and bowel cancer. There is concern, however, about the lack of treatments. Women have had a screening program for breast cancer for three decades but there is none for prostate cancer and only a few medicines are available.
One main problem with prostate cancer treatment is an inability to distinguish aggressive cases that will quickly prove fatal from slow-growing tumours that can safely be left for decades without causing any problems.
The latest study sequenced DNA from 112 tumours, combined with samples from 930 other patients, analysing the genetic patterns for clues to why cancers behave as they do. Ros Eeles, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who led the research, said it had uncovered “a wealth of new information about prostate cancer”.
The study pinpointed 80 proteins involved in the development of cancers. Of these, 11 are targeted by drugs used to treat other cancers, suggesting they could be used against prostate tumours. The remaining 62 offer new targets for future drug developments, the scientists report in Nature Genetics.