Scientists ID genetic marker for prostate cancer

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC) have identified the first genetic variant associated with aggressive prostate cancer-a finding that shows genetic information may one day be used in combination with other factors to guide treatment decisions.

WFUBMC researchers analyzed the genetic information from 4,849 men with aggressive disease and 12,205 with slow-growing disease to determine if the men with aggressive disease had genetic variants in common. The researchers identified a genetic variant (rs4054823) that was associated with a 25 percent higher risk of developing aggressive disease, according to a WFUBMC statement.

A marker for aggressiveness of prostate cancer is needed, may scientists argue. While many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, a large percentage of those malignancies grow so slowly that they never are life-threatening, an article in HealthDay notes. Because there is now no way of identifying so-called "indolent" prostate cancers, many men are over-treated, because they and their physicians prefer to be on the safe side.  

"Although the genetic marker currently has limited clinical utility, we believe it has the potential to one day be used in combination with other clinical variables and genetic markers to predict which men have aggressive prostate cancer at a stage when the disease is still curable," says team leader Jianfeng Xu, professor of epidemiology and cancer biology at WFUMBC. The research has been posted online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' website.

- check out Wake Forest's release
- view the study abstract from PNAS
- read HealthDay's coverage