Scientists have moved towards a better understanding of prostate cancer by uncovering evidence that it is not one disease but rather several factors which can be measured and destroyed by targeted therapy.
The research team led by of Dr. Mark A. Rubin, at Weill Cornell Medical College, identified secondary mutations that cause some types of prostate cancer cells to be lethal.
They believes that their discovery will lead to better tests for prostate cancer, sparing thousands of men from unnecessary biopsies, and leading to more specific and individualized therapy for prostate cancers that are likely to become deadly.
The current research expands on the team's previous work with University of Michigan that reported the first evidence that gene fusions, hybrid genes formed from two previously separate genes, play a widespread role in prostate cancer.
This novel observation supports the view that aggressive cancers need to accumulate multiple mutations. Using discoveries made in this study, clinicians may be better able to diagnose and target potentially deadly tumors.
"In the future, these fusions, specific to certain types of prostate cancer, may help physicians prescribe tailored therapies for their patients. This is an important step toward providing specific therapies that target individual cancer variants, and our hope is these findings will help doctors diagnose a patient's specific disease," explained Rubin
This research has led Rubin and his colleagues to co-develop the diagnostics for a new test for prostate cancer.
"The new test being developed will identify cells that are seen only in people with prostate cancer, allowing us to know with great certainty who has prostate cancer. This will result in fewer unnecessary biopsies, which have potential side effects, including infections, bloody semen, and rectal bleeding," he concluded.
The study results were published in online edition of the journal Genome Research.