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Seven new prostate cancer genes identified

Monday 11 February, 2008

Australian researchers contribute to Nature Genetics paper

Australian researchers have contributed to an international study led by UK scientists that has found and confirmed seven new sites in the human genome that are linked to men's risk of developing prostate cancer. Their findings are published in Nature Genetics* today.

The scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research and University of Cambridge found one gene called MSMB which could possibly be used for disease monitoring. Another of the sites contains a gene called LMTK2 which might be a target for new treatments. These data suggest the newly identified genetic markers are common and each increases a man's risk of the disease by a modest amount.

There are probably many different factors that influence the development of prostate cancer, but particular combinations of genes are thought to play a major part. These results represent the largest number of genetic risk factors found in one genome-wide cancer study to date.

Senior Investigator in Australia, Professor Graham Giles of The Cancer Council Victoria and University of Melbourne said "These exciting results will help us to more accurately calculate the risk of developing prostate cancer and may lead to the development of better targeted diagnosis and treatment."

The international team studied the differences in the genetic make up of over 10,000 men of whom 2,500 were from Australia, coordinated by the Cancer Council Victoria and the University of Melbourne.

Phase one of the study involved scanning the DNA of men who were thought to be at higher ‘genetic risk' of prostate cancer because they had been diagnosed with the disease before the age of 61 (1,171 men) or had a family history of prostate cancer (683 men). These results were then compared with a control group of men who did not have the disease (1,894 men) but lived in similar areas.

In the next stage, genetic variants were studied to see if they could be found more frequently in men with prostate cancer than in men without the disease. They studied 3,268 men with prostate cancer from the UK and Australia and 3,366 men who did not have the disease.

Professor John Hopper of The University of Melbourne continued: "In comparison with other cancers such as breast and lung cancer, we understand little about how prostate cancer develops. These results will greatly improve our knowledge of this important disease."

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "These results are a breakthrough in our efforts to understand men's susceptibility to prostate cancer. Thanks to the international collaboration of so many scientists, and this huge advance in technology, we can now trawl through the human genome to discover so much more about prostate cancer - the most common cancer to affect men.

"We hope these findings will help us illuminate some of the main difficulties faced by doctors and researchers in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer, so in combination with other advances we can eventually beat it."

The University of Melbourne ranks at No 1 in Victoria and No. 27 in the world. Global employers rate Melbourne in the top 10 universities for the employability of its graduates.*

* 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings.

For more information contact:

Professor Graham G Giles
Director, Cancer Epidemiology Centre
Director, Victorian Cancer Registry
Deputy Director, Cancer Control Research Institute
The Cancer Council Victoria
1 Rathdowne Street
Carlton South 3053
Phone: +61 3 9635 5155
Fax: +61 3 9635 5330

Professor John Hopper
Director School of Population Health
University of Melbourne
Mobile: 0402 847 119