DNA clues to fight­ing prostate can­cer

The Australian - - THE NATION - CHRIS SMYTH

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.

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