Scientists help identify genetic markers for prostate cancer in global DNA download

June 11, 2018, University of Southern California
Micrograph showing prostatic acinar adenocarcinoma (the most common form of prostate cancer) Credit: Wikipedia

An international team of researchers including USC scientists has found scores of new genetic markers in DNA code that increase prostate cancer risk—powerful knowledge likely to prove useful to detect and prevent the disease.

Focusing on DNA of more than 140,000 men worldwide, researchers were able to identify 63 new associated with . That greatly increases the number of genetic risk regions, bringing the total to more than 170 and moving scientists closer to using genetic information for clinical treatment.

The results will help bridge the gap between cancer research diagnosis and treatment, equipping physicians with tools to screen at-risk patients. The study, based at USC with collaborators worldwide, including the London-based Institute of Cancer Research, was published today in Nature Genetics.

"This is not a cure, but the information can help to identify men at high risk of developing prostate cancer who may benefit from enhanced screening and future targeted prevention," said Christopher A. Haiman, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a principal investigator for the project.

Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in American men, with one in nine men being diagnosed in their lifetime, and the third-leading cause of cancer death for men.

To identify genetic markers associated with prostate cancer risk, the researchers used "OncoArray," a new DNA analysis, to compare more than half a million single-letter changes in the DNA code of nearly 80,000 men with prostate cancer and more than 61,000 men without the disease. The researchers identified 63 new variants in DNA, which when inherited increased a man's risk of prostate cancer. Each individually had only a small effect on risk, but the combined effect of inheriting multiple variants could be dramatic.

The findings show that 1 percent of men at highest risk were 5.7 times more likely than the general population to develop prostate cancer—an increase in absolute risk from about one in 11 to one in two. The researchers were able to identify that high-risk population because it inherited many of the harmful genetic variants.

And the top 10 percent in the population risk distribution were 2.7 times more likely to develop the disease than the general population—corresponding to a risk of almost one in four.

With the addition of dozens more genetic markers to previously known markers, almost 30 percent of a man's inherited risk of prostate cancer has been accounted for—which may now be enough to start using the information in practical testing strategies, according to the study.

"We now have the ability to identify men at greater risk of prostate cancer," Haiman said. "We now need to figure out how to use this genetic information to prevent the disease."

These genetic markers may also one day help guide treatment for prostate cancer. Many of the new genetic variants were found in the region of genes involved in communication among cells of the immune system and other cells in the body. This implies that genetic errors in immune pathways may be affecting prostate cancer risk, which could have important implications for potential future treatment of prostate cancer with immunotherapies.

The study comes with caveats. For example, it focuses on white males only. Haiman said parallel studies are underway to study other ethnic groups. For reasons unknown, African-American men face a 74 percent greater risk of prostate cancer than in non-Hispanic white men, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The global scope of the project enabled researchers to collect massive amounts of DNA and compare genetic variants, which was key to achieving critical mass to make new discoveries. About 200 researchers worldwide participated, including experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Germany, China, Finland, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Malaysia and Croatia, among others.

Five scientists from the Keck School of Medicine participated in the study, including Haiman, Sue Ann Ingles, Mariana C. Stern, David V. Conti and the late Brian E. Henderson, who proposed the study more than three years ago. Henderson was a former dean of the Keck School, first director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute and director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer.

Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates 172,258 men in the United States were diagnosed with and 28,343 men died from in 2014, the most recent year such data is available.

Explore further: Overall, drinking wine does not impact prostate cancer risk

More information: Association analyses of more than 140,000 men identify 63 new prostate cancer susceptibility loci, Nature Genetics (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0142-8 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-018-0142-8

Related Stories

Overall, drinking wine does not impact prostate cancer risk

May 14, 2018
(HealthDay)—Moderate wine consumption does not seem to impact the risk of prostate cancer, according to a review published online April 17 in Clinical Epidemiology.

New prostate cancer risk score could help guide screening decisions

January 10, 2018
A new score for predicting a man's genetic risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer could help guide decisions about who to screen and when, say researchers in The BMJ today.

Research determines apparent genetic link to prostate cancer in African-American men

May 23, 2011
Some men of African descent may have a higher genetic risk of developing prostate cancer, according to research conducted at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC).

Moffitt researchers help lead efforts to find new genetic links to prostate cancer

September 17, 2014
Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center, including Center Director Thomas A. Sellers, Ph.D., M.P.H., Jong Park, Ph.D. and Hui-Yi Lin, Ph.D., have discovered 23 new regions of the genome that influence the risk for developing ...

Body size and prostate cancer risk

July 14, 2017
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Europe and the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men worldwide.

Prostate cancer tied to higher colorectal cancer risk

March 1, 2016
(HealthDay)—The risk of colorectal cancer is increased after a diagnosis of prostate cancer, according to a study published online Feb. 25 in Cancer.

Recommended for you

Week 34 of pregnancy reduces breast cancer risk: study

October 23, 2018
Women's bodies undergo a "striking" change during a specific week of pregnancy that can significantly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer later in life, scientists said Tuesday.

New combination treatment flips the switch on melanoma cells

October 23, 2018
Think of the protein BH3 like a finger that turns off a cancer cell survival switch. The problem is that most cancer cells have found ways to remove this "finger—commonly, by breaking the action of a gene called p53 that ...

New kind of compound shows early promise against prostate cancer

October 23, 2018
A new type of molecule blocks the action of genes that drive the growth of therapy-resistant prostate cancer, a new study finds.

Desperate & duped? GoFundMe means big bucks for dubious care

October 23, 2018
People seeking dubious, potentially harmful treatment for cancer and other ailments raised nearly $7 million over two years from crowdfunding sites, a study found.

Marker found for condition that causes numerous tumors

October 23, 2018
UT Southwestern researchers have made a major advance in uncovering the biology of how thousands of disfiguring skin tumors occur in patients troubled by a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). This scientific ...

Urban and rural rates of childhood cancer survival the same, study finds

October 23, 2018
Childhood and adolescent cancer survival in the United States does not vary by rural/urban residence at the time of diagnosis, finds a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.