Thanks to a 6-year research project, researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have identified 63 genetic mutations that increase the risk of prostate cancer. Genetic markers will help to improve genetic testing, determining who needs regular checks.
Previous studies have identified about 100 abnormalities related to prostate cancer. The presence of one or more of these increases the risk of developing a tumor by 50%. The study led by Dr. Schumacher went a step further, identifying 63 new genetic markers.
The team has sequenced the DNA of about 140,000 men of European ancestry. About 80,000 of these had suffered from prostate cancer. The remaining 60,000 had never shown any symptoms related to the disease. The researchers compared the data, detecting 63 genetic variants present in the first group but not in the second group.
According to the researchers, the genetic markers identified to date could only be the tip of the iceberg. The genetic anomalies related to the disease could be 500-1000, even if it will not be necessary to map them all. 10-20% of these could be enough to improve the lives of many men, so as to prevent the development of the tumor or choose the best therapy.
Prostate cancer has a strong component of familiarity. Men with a brother affected by the disease are more likely to develop it in turn. The current screening test identifies a specific prostate antigen, whose levels indicate the possibility of a tumor forming or already present. If the levels are high but there are no neoplasms, then the test must be repeated within 2 years.
Schumacher's study focuses on genetic variants for his screening test. For the moment it is still early to talk about specific genetic tests. Nevertheless, the discovery of the 63 new markers is a big step forward.