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A British research team have discovered the 100th gene for prostate cancer, leading experts to believe a genetic test for the condition could be developed within just five years.
Around 42,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed within the UK each year, making it the most common male-specific cancer, but currently there is no accurate test for the disease.
A team of scientists organised from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, Cambridge University and the United States examined the DNA structure of over 90,000 male participants in an international study. Half of the participants had prostate cancer, and by comparing their DNA with those of healthy men revealed the genes which raise the risk of developing the disease.
77 genes, ‘markers’ of the disease, were already known but the huge study managed to take the total number of prostate cancer genes to the total of 100 – enough for a genetic test to later be created as a way of detecting and preventing the cancer in those who are more likely to develop it.
Prostate cancer is widely known as a ‘silent killer’ as it tends to develop so slowly that men don’t notice any problems or symptoms until it is well advanced.
This discovery could help scientists and healthcare professionals find a way to target screening, and could even lead to new treatments for various genetic forms of the disease.
Dr Matthew Hobbs, the Deputy Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “There’s no doubt that genetic testing for prostate cancer is an exciting area of research. The results of this study could take us a step closer to targeted screening by allowing us to identify those most at risk of the disease based on the genes that they process. However, this is not the end of the story and the challenge now lies in translating this knowledge into a reliable test that can be used on a large scale through the NHS to find those men at highest risk.”
“It is also absolutely vital that researchers build on this work to discover which of these genetic variants can tell us whether a man’s cancer is aggressive and likely to go on to kill him, or one that may never cause any harm. This would save those men with non-aggressive forms of the disease from undergoing unnecessary treatment.” Dr Hobbs was quoted as saying.