Monday 16 July 2007
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research and at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Research Institute, have discovered a genetic change that identifies a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is different from many other cancers in that only certain types require treatment. This development could play a crucial role in the decision of whether or not to treat prostate cancer patients.
Prostate cancer is now the most common male cancer in the UK; each year, nearly 32,000 men are diagnosed and 10,000 men lose their lives to the disease.
In new research published today in Oncogene, researchers have shown that prostate cancer patients with a particular genetic change have extremely poor survival rates. Prostate cancers commonly contain fusion of the TMPRSS2 and ERG genes. The new study shows that duplication of this change, called 2+Edel, is found in 6.6% of prostate cancers (equivalent to 1,800 UK prostate cancers patients each year). Patients with 2+Edel have only a 25% survival rate after eight years, compared to 90% for patient with no alterations in this region of DNA.
The work represents a collaboration between Professor Colin Cooper at The Institute of Cancer Research and Professor Jack Cuzick at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.
Prostate cancer is unique as in the majority of cases it will be slow growing and may only start to cause symptoms after many years. However, in some men the cancer will grow and spread, becoming fatal. At present it is very difficult to distinguish between prostate cancers which require treatment (called Tigers) and those which do not (called Pussycats) so men diagnosed with prostate cancer are presented with a unique problem of whether to undergo treatment, which is often associated with debilitating side effects such as impotence and incontinence.
Professor Colin Cooper, The Grand Charity of Freemasons' Chair of Molecular Biology at The Institute of Cancer Research said: “This is exciting news for men with prostate cancer, many of whom are faced with the difficult decision of whether to undergo treatment or not. We are currently conducting ongoing studies looking at 2+Edel in prostate cancer patients. We hope that in the next few years screening for 2+Edel will be incorporated into clinical practice and used alongside current techniques, such as Gleason scoring, at the time of diagnosis to decide whether men require treatment or not.”
Currently a system called the Gleason score is used to grade which cancers require treatment and which do not. Whilst the Gleason score is extremely useful, it is subject to variability in interpretation. Therefore, new techniques to support the Gleason score are urgently required.
The researchers retrospectively analysed the ERG gene in samples from 455 men with prostate cancer who had been conservatively managed.
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Notes to editors
About The Institute of Cancer Research
- The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting edge research. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. Website at: www.icr.ac.uk .
- The Institute works in a unique partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, forming the largest Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Europe. This relationship enables close daily contact with those on the frontline in the fight against cancer - the clinicians, the carers and most importantly, the patients.
- Professor Cooper’s position is funded by a £1 million donation over ten years to The Institute from The
Freemasons Grand Charity to support vital research into prostate and testicular cancers. The position, known as The Grand Charity of Freemasons’ Chair of Molecular Biology, heads the male cancer research centre at The Institute.
- Professor Colin Cooper co-ordinates the South of England NCRI Prostate Cancer Collaborative .
- Professor Jack Cuzick is head of the Centre for Epidemiology, Mathematics and Statistics at Cancer Research UK in London. He is also John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London.
- The work of Professor Cooper’s team at the Male Urological Cancer Research Centre is supported by The Rosetrees Trust.
- The work of David Hudson and his team at the Male Urological Cancer Research Centre is supported by The Bob Champion Cancer Trust.
About Cancer Research UK
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer. Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer. Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients. Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make. Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.
- For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.uk .
About The National Cancer Research Institute
- The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) was established in April 2001. It is a partnership between government, the voluntary sector and the private sector, with the primary mission of maximising patient benefit that accrues from cancer research in the UK through coordination of effort and joint planning towards an integrated national strategy for cancer research.
- Through the NCRI Partnership, the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the Department of Heath for England are funding the Prostate Cancer Collaboratives, one of which is headed by Professor Colin Cooper at the Institute of Cancer Research. The NCRI consists of: The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); The Association for International Cancer Research; The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia Research Fund; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Relief; Marie Curie Cancer Care; The Medical Research Council; The National Assembly for Wales; Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services Research & Development Office; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Executive Health Department; Tenovus; Wales Office of Research and Development for Health & Social Care; The Wellcome Trust and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
About Orchid - Fighting Male Cancer
- Orchid exists to save men's lives from testicular, prostate and penile cancers through pioneering research and promoting awareness.