Progress seen in prostate cancer genetic tests

BY admin

April 08 2006 12:00 AM ET

Two companies
have developed genetic tests that eventually could help
doctors better predict which prostate cancer patients have
serious cases that need aggressive treatment, U.S.
researchers reported this week.

One test,
developed by San Diego–based Illumina, was designed
to help physicians tell which patients considered at
medium risk will have their cancer recur after the
prostate is removed. Those patients typically have a
score of 6 or 7 on the 10-point Gleason scale, which is
among the standard tests for prostate cancer.

Researchers used
the Illumina test to analyze prostate cancer tissue
samples for 16 genes and studied how patients fared. They
said they could use the information to give patients a
score indicating whether they were likely to
experience a recurrence of cancer within the next five
years.

If confirmed in
future studies, “this information could be used to
make the next leap as to what (treatment) a patient
should or should not have,” said Tracy Downs, a
urologic oncologist at the University of California,
San Diego.

Another test
developed by Berlin-based Epigenomics detected a gene called
PITX2 and its “methylation,” a chemical
alteration that controls how active a gene is. The
PITX2 gene is thought to play a role in regulating
hormones, which can fuel cancer growth.

Men whose tissue
samples tested positive on the Epigenomics test were
three times more likely to experience cancer recurrence
after having their prostate removed, researchers said.

“Those are
the people that are really possibly good candidates for
early [postsurgical] therapy,” said Susan
Cottrell, a senior scientist at Epigenomics’s
Seattle-based U.S. unit.

The company plans
to seek Food and Drug Administration approval of the
test if its effectiveness is confirmed in a larger study,
Cottrell said. The test could be available for use in
patients “in another couple years,” she
added.

Findings on both
tests were released at a meeting of the American
Association for Cancer Research.

Neither test was
designed to replace the Gleason score or the PSA test
that doctors typically use to determine the severity of
prostate cancer, the researchers said.

Prostate cancer
is the most common cancer in U.S. men. It is diagnosed in
232,000 men every year and kills up to 30,000 of them.
Worldwide, 221,000 men die from prostate cancer each
year. (Reuters)

Tags: Health

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