A new study conducted by researchers as the Cancer Research UK reveals that in fact, prostate cancer has five genetically varying types.
The finding is bound to help the medical community in treating prostate cancer more accurately and targeted. For some of the 41,700 men that are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually in the UK, more aggressive treatment could be the answer to battling the disease.
For others, aggressive therapies can spark side effects that are further detrimental to the patients’ health. Thus, being able to target each of the five types of prostate cancer individually could result in improved quality of life and more efficient treatment plans for each individual patient.
The study, authored by Doctor Alastair Lamb at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, features in the EBioMedicine journal.
“Our exciting results show that prostate cancer can be classified into five genetically different. These findings could help doctors decide on the best course of treatment for each individual patient, based on the characteristics of their tumor”,
stated Doctor Lamb.
The study was conducted using prostate tissue from 259 men. Of them, 156 were operated in Cambridge, while another 103 had been operated in Sweden for prostate tumor removal.
The first step of the study was to combine two techniques that are the go-to-tools for understanding and classifying variations between prostate cancer patients.
One of the techniques looks at copy-number alterations. According to the researchers, this means that they look specifically for DNA sequences that are either repeated or deleted and group patients according to similarities in these patterns.
Secondly, they look at messenger RNAs, which are molecules that indicate the activity level of tumor genes. According to Doctor Lamb:
“If we find a copy-number alteration that results in a change at the mRNA level, the logical deduction is that this would have more of an impact. So by combining these techniques, we could potentially identify an important group of genes that are dramatically altered in prostate cancer patients”.
Upon completing the two sets of analysis, the results were compared. The researchers identified that one group of 100 genes in the tumors – called gene signature – were visibly driving the expansion of prostate cancer, albeit at different levels of activity.
As such, prostate cancer patients were divided in five groups. One group presented DNA sequences deleted, yet a low activity level of some genes in the gene signature. A second group presented DNA repetition at a high level, which was also linked to increased activity of genes in the gene signature.
Two groups were found to have low copy-number alterations, linked to low activity levels, while the fifth group presented very few copy-number alterations.
With these findings, Doctor Lamb and his team went on to check whether a certain group was more likely to relapse following surgery. It seems that patients who are found to have higher copy-number alterations will also relapse faster.
This is the first study of its kind and could silverline efforts to effectively treat prostate cancer, as soon as the results are confirmed in larger studies.
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