Deadly prostate cancer gene discovery
Published on 09 April 2013 11:30 AM
Scientists have found a faulty gene that can result in aggressive and deadly prostate cancer.
Men diagnosed with the faulty BRCA2 gene, normally linked with breast cancer, are more likely to be at higher risk and should be treated immediately, the research suggests. Around 1 in every 100 men with prostate cancer will have the BRCA2 mutation.
More than 40,000 UK men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. The rate of its spread is usually very difficult to predict early on.
It is hoped the new research will help save lives in future by focusing treatment at men most at risk.
Researchers said that men with the gene who are found with the disease should be given more radical treatment than non-carriers, such as immediate surgery or radiotherapy.
Many men with early-stage prostate cancer are currently advised to wait and see if the disease starts to advance.
This 'active surveillance' method suits patients with slow-growing, non-aggressive tumours, but not those with the BRCA2 mutant.
A deadly mutation that needs immediate surgery
The research, published in the Journal of the Clinical Oncology, involved studying the medical data of 61 BRCA2 mutation carriers, 18 carriers of a sister faulty gene, BRCA1, and 1,940 non-carriers.
Men with either of the defective genes were more likely to be identified with progressed prostate cancers, or tumours that had already advanced.
Those with BRCA2 mutations were also substantially less likely to live.
They survived an average of 6.5 years after diagnosis, compared with 12.9 years for non-carriers.
Study co-leader Professor Ros Eeles, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said it is obvious from the study that prostate cancers associated with inheritance of the BRCA2 cancer gene are deadlier than other types.
She said: 'It must make sense to start offering affected men immediate surgery or radiotherapy, even for early-stage cases that would otherwise be classified as low-risk.'
Prof Eeles added that the medical profession won't be able to conclusively tell that earlier treatment can benefit men with inherited cancer genes until it has been tested in a clinical trial.
But she hopes that her team's study will ultimately save lives by directing treatment at those who most need it.
Copyright Press Association 2013