DNA changes could predict prostate cancer relapse

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is widely used to find prostate cancer in men over 50, and to track how the cancer is growing, but it doesn't always help to predict what the patient's outcome will be, especially as some prostate cancers are so slow-growing that they don't need treatment. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have spotted copy number variations or CNVs, duplications or deletions in stretches of the genetic material, that could help doctors predict what the cancers might do after diagnosis.

The team looked at the DNA in cells from prostate cancers, in cells from healthy prostate tissue taken from near the tumor, and in the blood from prostate cancer patients. They found that the levels of copy number variations could predict which patients would relapse after initial treatment, and whether their disease would remain slow-growing (indolent) or would grow quickly (aggressive).

While this is still at an early stage, a test like this could reduce the need for invasive and unpleasant biopsies or unnecessary treatment, and could help doctors decide whether patients need further treatment after surgery to prevent a relapse.

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- see the abstract