Scientists have discovered five genes linked to the deadliest forms of prostate cancer, which may lead to more aggressive treatments. According to a new study, prostate cancer victims have five specific genetic markers that can tell scientists how deadly a tumor is.
This is important because prostate cancer patients are usually treated with surgery and radiation because there has been no reliable way to tell if the cancer is growing slowly or fast. Scientists hope that this medical discovery will lead to the creation of a blood test that could tell which men should receive strong treatment when cancer growths are found.
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, looked at DNA samples from 1,300 prostate cancer victims to identify 22 gene markers associated with prostate cancer death. Scientists compared those 22 gene markers to a Swedish study of DNA from 2,900 prostate cancer patients.
The study said there were five specific gene markers associated with prostate cancer death. Researchers say that patients who had four or all five of the genetic markers were 50 percent more likely to die than patients who had two or fewer.
Dr. Janet L. Stanford, co-director of prostate cancer research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said in a written statement: "While previous studies have suggested that genetic background influences prostate cancer outcomes, this is the first study to validate genetic markers associated with lethal disease.”
More than 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and nearly 34,000 die from the disease. Prostate cancer typically occurs in older men.
Currently, men can take a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA in the blood. Because PSA is produced by the body, the test can be used to detect high amounts of PSA, which could mean prostate cancer.