Researchers of the University of Michigan, have found a gene which acts as a specific diagnostic marker for prostate cancer. Using a technique called DNA microarray analysis, which allows investigation of the activity of thousands of different genes in tissue samples. The gene is called a-methylacyl-CoA racemase (AMACR) and it's never before been seen in association with cancer.
In this study, AMACR was found in over 90 per cent of 200 prostate cancer tissue samples. Importantly, it was not seen in benign prostate tissue or other tissue showing non-malignant change. There's no suggestion that AMACR actually causes cancer, but it does act as a marker showing that cancer is present.
It may well be that AMACR will score over the conventional prostate specific antigen (PSA) screen for prostate cancer. For PSA is found in cancer but also in benign prostate disease. AMACR looks to be far more specific. And the researchers have found the gene in other cancers too, such as colorectal, ovarian and breast cancer, which suggests it may be widely applicable as an accurate diagnostic test.