Researchers locate prostate cancer gene
November 21, 1996
Web posted at: 7:40 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Jeff Levine
BALTIMORE (CNN)--Researchers have, for the first time, located a gene that predisposes men to prostate cancer, the most prevalent form of cancer among men in the United States, according to a study published in this week's edition of the journal Science.
Prostate cancer kills 40,000 men in the U.S. each year. But researchers hope they will now be able to contain the cancer better by using blood tests to give an early warning to high risk patients.
Jeff Trent from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH)
genome research project and colleagues from Sweden and the United States have searched for anomalies in genes of nearly 100 families with three cases of prostate cancer or more.
Locating a gene is the first step toward identifying it. Now, researchers hope to find how the gene's mutations can increase someone's chance of getting prostate cancer.
Previous studies have shown a clustering of the occurrence of the disease in families. However, little is known about the genetics of this type of cancer.
The gene named HPC-1 by researchers is the first proof that there is a genetic component to the disease.
Defective genes, called mutations, may cause up to 10 percent of prostate cancer cases. And researchers believe this particular gene accounts for one-third of inherited tumors.
"If this really finds a new pathway (to) how this gene works, that could erupt in new treatments," said Dr. Henrik Gronberg of Umea University in Sweden.
But there are concerns a genetic test for prostate cancer may encourage some healthy men to have their prostates removed.
"That ... is a long way in the distance," said Dr. Patrick Walsh of the John Hopkins School of Medicine. "I'm not suggesting it yet, but certainly there may be some people who may select that avenue."
Currently, the PSA blood test is considered a good indicator of the disease, which occurs most often in older men.
Researchers at John Hopkins hope to find the actual prostate cancer gene within one year. The hope is it will shed light on a disease that will develop in 15 percent of American men.
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