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Seven new prostate cancer genetic risk factors identified

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by Cancer Research UK | News

10 February 2008

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Cancer Research UK funded scientists have found seven new sites in the human genome that are linked to men’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Their findings are published in Nature Genetics* today.

The scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research and University of Cambridge found one gene called MSMB which could possibly be used in screening for prostate cancer and disease monitoring. Another of the sites harbours a gene called LMTK2 which might be a target for new treatments. The data suggests these newly identified genetic alterations are present in over half of all prostate cancer cases. They each increase a person’s risk of the disease by up to 60 per cent.

There are probably many different factors that influence the development of prostate cancer, but particular combinations of genes are thought to play a major part. These results represent the largest number of genetic risk factors found in one genome-wide cancer study to date.

Dr Ros Eeles, who led the study at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: “These exciting results will help us to more accurately calculate the risk of developing prostate cancer and may lead to the development of better targeted screening and treatment.”

The team, collaborating with scientists in the UK and Australia**, studied the differences in the genetic make up of over 10,000 men in total. They started by scanning the DNA of men who were thought to be at higher ‘genetic risk’ of prostate cancer because they had been diagnosed with the disease before the age of 61 (1,171 men) or had a family history of prostate cancer (683 men). They then compared these results with a control group of men who did not have the disease (1,894 men) but lived in similar areas.

In the next stage, they looked to see if these genetic variants could be found more frequently in men with prostate cancer than in men without the disease. They studied 3,268 men with prostate cancer from the UK and Australia and 3,366 men who did not have the disease.

Fellow study author, Professor Doug Easton, director of Cancer Research UK’s Genetic Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge continued: “In comparison with other cancers such as breast and lung cancer, we understand little about how prostate cancer develops. These results will greatly improve our knowledge of this important disease.”

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “These results are a breakthrough in our efforts to understand men’s susceptibility to prostate cancer. Thanks to the international collaboration of so many scientists, and this huge advance in technology, we can now trawl through the human genome to discover so much more about prostate cancer – the most common cancer to affect UK men.

“We hope these findings will help us illuminate some of the main difficulties faced by doctors and researchers in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer, so in combination with other advances we can eventually beat it.”


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