Gene Activity in Blood Identifies Aggressive Prostate Cancers
17 Oct 2012
The pattern of genes switched on and off in blood cells accurately detected which advanced prostate cancers were associated with the worst survival risk.
A team at The Institute of Cancer Research, (ICR; London, United Kingdom), The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust (London, United Kingdom) and The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Center in Glasgow (United Kingdom) scanned the genes present in blood samples from 100 patients with prostate cancer. This included 69 patients with advanced cancer and 31 control patients thought to have low-risk, early-stage cancer who were being managed by active surveillance.
Using statistical modeling, the scientists divided the patients into four groups reflecting their pattern of gene activity–the barcode. When they reviewed all the patients'' progress after almost two-and-a-half years, they found patients in one group had survived for significantly less time than patients in the others.
They designed a blood test that reads genetic changes like a barcode making it possible to choose aggressive prostate cancers by their particular pattern of gene activity. The team believes that the blood test could eventually be used alongside the existing PSA test at diagnosis to select patients who need immediate treatment.
The test was described in the Lancet Oncology on Tuesday October 9, 2012. It is an unusual test in that it assesses changes in the pattern of gene activity in blood cells triggered by a tumor elsewhere in the body. Senior author Prof. Johann de Bono, leader of the prostate cancer targeted therapy team at The ICR and honorary consultant at The Royal Marsden, 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."