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Genetic Marker for Aggressive Prostate Cancer Found
Date:1/11/2010

Variant could be used to guide treatment, researchers suggest

MONDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A focused search of the entire human genome has found a genetic variant associated with the aggressiveness of prostate cancer, in a discovery that marks an important first step toward singling out cancers that need intensive treatment from those that can simply be left alone.

"It is a proof of principle to show that there are variants in the genome that influence the different kinds of prostate cancer," said Dr. Jianfeng Xu, a professor of epidemiology and cancer biology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, and leader of a team reporting the finding online in the Jan. 11-15 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A marker for aggressiveness of prostate cancer is sorely needed, cancer specialists agree. While many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer -- it accounts for one-fourth of all cancer diagnoses in the United States -- a large percentage of those malignancies grow so slowly that they never are life-threatening. Because there is now no way of identifying so-called "indolent" prostate cancers, many men are overtreated, because they and their physicians prefer to be on the safe side.

The new genetic variant cannot be such a marker by itself, Xu said. "One SNP has limited ability, but a panel of SNPs would be useful to identify men who have high risk for aggressive prostate cancers," he said.

An SNP -- single-nucleotide polymorphism -- is a variation in the long string of DNA molecules that make up the genome that determines all human traits.

Xu and his colleagues looked for SNPs in the genomes of 4,829 men with aggressive prostate cancers -- defined as having more disorderly structure and growing beyond the prostate gland -- and 12,205 with slow-growing cancers. They found one SNP that was associated with a 25 percent greater risk of developing
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