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.”


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


*Multiple newly identified loci associated with prostate cancer susceptibility, Nature Genetics, 2008.

**The researchers were based at The Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Cancer Research UK Genetic Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, The Cancer Council Victoria, Australia, The Centre for Molecular, Environmental, Genetic and Analytic Epidemiology, The University of Melbourne, Australia. Department of Oncology, University of Cambridge, Genetic Epidemiology Laboratory, Department of Pathology, The University of Melbourne, Australia, Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Academic Urology Unit, University of Sheffield, University of Nottingham Medical School, Nottingham, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge and The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute. Hundreds of doctors and nurses within a large UK collaboration took part in discussing this study with patients (The UK Genetic Prostate Cancer Study). A full list of authors can be provided.

The five new genetic regions found are on human chromosomes 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 19. & X.

The region on chromosome 10 harbours the MSMB (microseminoprotein B) gene, this makes a protein that can be measured in the blood.

The region on chromosome 7 harbours the gene LMTK2 which codes for a signalling protein.

The region on chromosome 19 contains the genes KLK2 and KLK3. These code for proteins HK2 and PSA which can be measured in blood.

The technology used in these studies was provided by Illumina.

Cancer Research UK is also funding a series of genome-wide studies in other cancers because it hopes to identify people who are at increased risk of developing the disease and eventually prevent it from occurring. The first results from the breast and bowel cancer studies have already been announced. Find out more about these studies on our website.

The tendency of cancers to aggregate in families cannot be wholly explained by rare, high-risk, inherited mutations. A substantial proportion of such cancers are thought to be attributable to the combined effects of multiple, common gene variants, known as polymorphisms, each of which is associated with a small increase in cancer risk. The search for these polymorphisms is being facilitated by the availability of the human genome sequence and the development of high-throughput single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array technology, as used in this study.

For more informationabout Cancer Research UK’s other work on prostate cancer visit our website

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in British men (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), with nearly 35,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK. More information about prostate cancer can be found on Cancer Research UK’s patient website CancerHelp UK.

Familial risk

First degree male relatives are father, brother and son only.

The greatest risk factor for prostate cancer is age – over half of cases are registered in men over 75.

Generally speaking, men who have a relative who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer are at double the risk of getting the disease, compared to the average man. If they have a brother with prostate cancer, their risk is almost three times.

The age of the relative at diagnosis is also a factor. If the relative has been diagnosed before the age of 60, the increase in risk will be higher. If they have more than one first degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer (at any age) their risk is about four times the average. To find out more visit Cancer Research UK’s patient website CancerHelp UK.

People who are concerned they may have a strong family risk should talk to their GP. The doctor may refer them to a genetics clinic for specialist advice about their risk, screening and the availability of genetic testing.

About The Institute of Cancer Research

The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting edge research. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. Visit the ICR homepage.

The Institute is a charity that relies on voluntary income. The Institute is one of the world’s most cost-effective major cancer research organisations with over 90p in every £ directly supporting research.

The University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge’s reputation for excellence is known worldwide and reflects the scholastic achievements of its academics and students, as well as the world-class original research carried out by its staff. Some of the world’s most significant scientific breakthroughs have occurred at the University, including the splitting of the atom, invention of the jet engine and the discoveries of stem cells, plate tectonics, pulsars and the structure of DNA. From Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking, the University has nurtured some of history’s greatest minds and has produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other UK institution with over 80 laureates.

About Cancer Research UK

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