Scientists from Cancer Research UK have managed to identify, for the first time, five distinct types of prostate cancer, and a possible mechanism of differentiating between them. The findings of the study were recently published in EBioMedicine, highlighting its significant implications for future treatment options for prostate cancer – identifying that tumors are more prone to grow and aggressively metastasize.
Prostate Cancer: The Statistics
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men from the UK. About 41,700 cases are reported every year, with around 10,800 of the cases resulting in death.
Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert explained that the challenge in treating the disease is its unpredictable nature. It can either grow slowly, not causing any problems, or it can grow and spread aggressively, requiring immediate intervention. Mason stated that presently, doctors had no reliable method of distinguishing between the two forms – some men might receive unnecessary treatment and suffer side-effects, whereas others might benefit from more intensive strategies.
Finding The Distinction: Prostate Cancer Types
The research team – from Cancer UK and Cambridge Institute and Addenbrooke’s Hospital – observed samples of prostate tissue, both healthy and cancerous, obtained from over 250 men. By highlighting chromosomal abnormalities and measuring the activity of 100 genes associated with prostate cancer, the scientists successfully grouped timorous tissue into five different types, each having its own characteristic genetic fingerprint.
These findings worked better when it came to predicting the intensity and aggressiveness of prostate cancer, as opposed to the tests presently used (PSA, Gleason score). However, further investigation with a larger group of men in vigorous clinical trials is still required.
Dr Alastair Lamb, author of the study from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, stated that the exciting classification of prostate cancer into five distinct genetic types could facilitate doctors in deciding the most suitable course of treatment for each individual patient.
What The Future Holds
According to the researchers, the next step would be to figure out the molecular mechanisms that differentiate each of these types of cancer. This would help in developing more effective and patient-specific treatment strategies for the future and would help save more lives.
“This research could be game-changing if the results hold up in larger clinical trials. It could even help us choose between treatments for men with aggressive cancers. Ultimately, this could mean successfully improving the quality of life for many thousands of men with prostate cancer”.