MD Anderson pursues two projects targeting personalized prostate cancer testing

Prostate cancer diagnostic research is taking interesting new steps toward personalized medicine in two separate projects, both involving The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

In the first, MD Anderson researchers say they've spotted a biomarker that could help predict for certain prostate cancer patients if they'll face a more aggressive form of the disease. MD Anderson scientists are also teaming with Belgium's VolitionRx to see whether a line of the company's assays can be used to distinguish between two different forms of prostate cancer, one more aggressive than the other.

Both projects, if successful, could enable quicker, more precise diagnosis as well as targeted treatment, which is always a good thing when it comes to cancer. Each project also underscores the fact that personalized medicine increasingly informs research behind cancer diagnostics and treatments. For both of these MD Anderson efforts, specific genetic subsets of prostate cancer are the points of focus. This is an acknowledgement that types of cancer can manifest with a multitude of genetic iterations--something that has been overlooked with past development of broader diagnostic and treatment options for most cancer types.

Researchers involved in the prostate biomarker project said that they found a biomarker next to the KLK3 gene that can help predict which GS7 prostate cancer patients face a deadlier form of cancer. That KLK3 mutation determines which prostate cancers are more aggressive, according to the findings, which also determined that the mutation is more apparent in cancer patients with GS7. The Gleason score helps predict prostate cancer outcomes, and a GS7 prostate cancer ranking is an intermediate grade, typically involving between 30%-40% of all prostate cancers, MD Anderson said.

Details are published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

For the other prostate cancer diagnostic project, MD Anderson will conduct a study with VolitionRx to examine how that company's VolitionRx NuQ assays work to distinguish the extremely aggressive anaplastic prostate cancer from typical castration-resistant prostate cancer, a less aggressive form of the disease.

The anaplastic version of prostate cancer can spread quickly and represents as many as 30% of lethal prostate cancers, VolitionRx said in its announcement. It also can emerge from the castration-resistant progression of the disease and resists typical prostate cancer therapies, the company noted. While neither side is discussing financial terms of this partnership, MD Anderson is being brought in to determine how well NuQ can spot anaplastic prostate cancers.

Earlier diagnosis of the more aggressive form of prostate cancer can at least give clinicians a chance of testing different treatments before the cancer advances too far to make a difference.

- read the MD Anderson biomarker announcement
- here's the VolitionRx/MD Anderson news

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