U.K. researchers spot new marker for prostate cancer prognosis

A protein that helps cells stick together could be a marker for the severity of prostate cancer, according to lab research at the U.K.'s University of Manchester. The protein, β2-syntrophin, helps cells make tight connections to each other, which aids in stopping tumors from spreading.

In the U.K., prostate cancer is the most common male cancer, affecting about 40,000 men each year. Prostate cancer can be slow growing and low risk, or fast growing, aggressive and likely to spread quickly. Knowing which form of the cancer is which will help doctors choose whether to treat or just watch and wait. It will also save some men from repeated and invasive biopsies and unpleasant treatment they just don't need.

Cells without β2-syntrophin become disorganized. Losing this protein indicates prostate cancer progression. Researcher Natalie Mack explained that patients with reduced levels of the protein at the cell-to-cell connections were more likely to have a recurrence of their cancer after treatment.

According to the team, the results suggest that β2-syntrophin needs further exploration as a new prognosis marker in prostate cancer with potential to distinguish between low- and high-risk level forms of the disease. The research was funded by Cancer Research UK and published in Nature Cell Biology.

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- see the abstract