Scientists may be on track to find prostate cancer gene

September 2, 2004

A combined genome-wide linkage analysis of 426 families from four existing hereditary prostate cancer study populations found strong evidence of prostate cancer linkage at chromosome region 17q22, according to a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2004; 96:1240-7).

A combined genome-wide linkage analysis of 426 families from four existing hereditary prostate cancer study populations found strong evidence of prostate cancer linkage at chromosome region 17q22, according to a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2004; 96:1240-7).

"This study will help us predict better who is at the highest risk for this disease," said lead author Elizabeth Gillanders, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. "If we could identify men with susceptibility genes, we can target our surveillance to them and identify their cancers much earlier."

The families, who are from North American and Scandinavian countries, have high rates of prostate cancer. Through serum samples, the scientists genetically mapped a handful of markers that tended to occur in men with the disease.

"This is the largest scan for prostate cancer susceptibility genes to date," said co-author Jianfeng Xu, MD, PhD, a genetic researcher at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC. "We found multiple pieces of evidence to suggest the presence of a prostate cancer gene, or genes, on chromosome 17. These results offer renewed interest, excitement, and confidence in the genetic linkage studies of prostate cancer."

In related news, researchers have found a gene that influences prostate cancer, according to an online letter in Nature Genetics (Aug. 8, 2004).

The gene, EphB2, which most likely plays a role in regulating and maintaining normal tissue organization, is inactivated in prostate cancer, researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) have shown. They believe loss of the gene's function leads to disorganization of cells and also encourages the growth and survival of prostate cancer cells.

"Much additional research is warranted to determine the extent of its involvement in prostate cancer and other cancers as well," said senior author Spyro Mousses, PhD, head of TGen's Cancer Drug Development Laboratory, Phoenix.