Researchers at The Ohio State University and the Harvard School of Public Health have revealed that blood vessels in prostate cancer could act as predictor of how the cancer would behave in future.
The study of 572 men with localized prostate cancer indicates that aggressive or lethal prostate cancers tend to have blood vessels that are small, irregular and primitive in cross-section.
On the other hand, slow-growing or indolent tumours have blood vessels that look more normal.
"It's as if aggressive prostate cancers are growing faster and their blood vessels never fully mature," said study leader Dr. Steven Clinton.
"Prostate cancer is very heterogeneous, and we need better tools to predict whether a patient has a prostate cancer that is aggressive, fairly average or indolent in its behavior so that we can better define a course of treatment - surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, or potentially new drugs that target blood vessels - that is specific for each person's type of cancer.
"Similarly, if we can better determine at the time of biopsy or prostatectomy who is going to relapse, we can start treatment earlier, when the chance for a cure may be better," added Clinton.
The study analysed tumour samples and clinical outcome data from men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which involves 51,529 male North American dentists, optometrists, podiatrists, pharmacists and veterinarians.
After an average follow-up of 10 years, 44 of the 572 men had developed metastatic cancer or died of their cancer.
Men whose tumours had smaller vessel diameters were six times more likely to have aggressive tumours and die of their disease, and those with the most irregularly shaped vessels were 17 times more likely to develop lethal prostate cancer.
The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.