Prostate cancer: Genetic discovery holds promise for better screening

2011 Annual Report

Prostate cancer: Genetic discovery holds promise for better screening

Dr. Janet Stanford

Dr. Janet Stanford

A new kind of prostate cancer screening could one day determine which patients need aggressive treatment and which would benefit from a more conservative “active surveillance” approach.

Led by the Hutchinson Center’s Dr. Janet Stanford, an international team of researchers this year identified five inherited genetic variants strongly associated with aggressive, lethal prostate cancer.

If the biomarkers prove valid in further studies, a resulting simple blood test could decrease the personal toll and economic burden of prostate cancer overtreatment.

“Tests that can distinguish between patients with indolent tumors versus more-aggressive tumors are urgently needed,” Stanford said. “The panel of biomarkers we’ve identified provides the first validated evidence that inherited genetic variants play a role in prostate cancer progression and mortality.”

The researchers analyzed DNA in blood samples taken from a group of more than 4,000 prostate cancer patients. They looked for variants within the DNA alphabet to identify those that appeared to play a role in the development or progression of the disease. Patients who carried four or five of the genetic markers had a 50 percent higher risk of dying from their prostate cancer than patients who had two or fewer.