Barcoding Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer aggression may be detected with new genetic patterns

(RxWiki News) You know what a barcode looks like – with the lines and numbers that are scanned for just about anything you buy these days. This graphic model may be used to better detect aggressive prostate cancers.

Scientists in England have developed a blood test that can detect serious prostate cancers by reading the genes that are switched on and off.

The results could be read like a barcode, with particular patterns noting aggressive cancers.

"Talk to you doctor about prostate cancer screening."

The system was developed by a team of scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

“This is some of the most exciting news that I've heard in years,” prostate cancer specialist, E. David Crawford, MD, told dailyRx News.

“What is cutting edge is that this is not only something easily assayed [evaluated] from blood, it is also relatively applicable to many areas in the disease,” said Dr. Crawford, who is professor of surgery, urology, and radiation oncology, and head of the Section of Urologic Oncology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.

Researchers think this blood test – which is years away from being available – could one day be used along with the traditional PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test to diagnose patients whose cancer needs to be treated immediately.

Study senior author, Professor Johann de Bono from The Institute of Cancer Research and honorary consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said, "Prostate cancer is a very diverse disease – some people live with it for years without symptoms but for others it can be aggressive and life-threatening – so it's vital we develop reliable tests to tell the different types apart.”

"We've shown it is possible to learn more about prostate cancers by the signs they leave in the blood, allowing us to develop a test that is potentially more accurate than those available now and easier for patients than taking a biopsy. Our test reads the pattern of genetic activity like a barcode, picking up signs that a patient is likely to have a more aggressive cancer. Doctors should then be able to adjust the treatment they give accordingly," Dr. de Bono said in a press release.

Scientists examined genes found in the blood samples of 100 prostate cancer patients – 69 with advanced cancer, and 31 with low-risk cancers.

The patients were divided into four groups, according to their gene patterns, which made up the barcode.

Researchers followed the patients for 2 ½ years and found that men in one group tended to live significantly less time than men in the other groups.

Upon closer examination, this group of men all had nine key genes that were active. These results were confirmed in another 70 men with advanced cancer.

The men that had these nine genes lived 9.2 months, compared to the 21.5 months men in the other groups lived.

Professor Alan Ashworth, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said in a press release, "Whether particular genes are active or not is an important clue in identifying patients with a poor prognosis. This latest study shows that it is possible to read these patterns of gene activity like a barcode, allowing scientists to spot cancers that are likely to be more aggressive."

This test was described in October 9 The Lancet Oncology.

The test will be studied in an international trial of a new advanced cancer drug.

The study was funded by AstraZeneca, Prostate Cancer UK (formerly the Prostate Cancer Charity) and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The Drug Development Unit also receives funding from Cancer Research UK and the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre network.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 8, 2012