Genes that mutate in prostate cancer identified

Last Updated: Nov 15, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: In what could pave the way for new treatments for prostate cancer, scientists claim to have identified genes which mutate in the disease.

A team at the Queen Mary University of London has discovered that male sex hormones called androgens play a key role in promoting the fusion of two specific genes -- TMPRSS2 and ERG -- which fuel the growth of prostate cancer in men.

In fact, these mutant genes, which have been found in several cancers, form when DNA from different parts of the genetic region of cells merge, say the scientists.

According to them, identifying the genes that are regulated by these hormones is a major step forward in finding new therapies for the disease, British newspaper `The Daily
Telegraph` reported.

Dr Yong-Jie Lu, the lead scientist from the university`s Institute of Cancer, said: "This is a significant discovery and a major breakthrough into the future prevention of the disease. It could also lead to new treatments.

"If we can learn how to control and manage androgen levels, there is a strong possibility that we may be able to help thousands of men, especially those known to be at high risk from a family history of prostate cancer, from developing the condition altogether."

The research, published in the `Cancer Research` journal, was funded by the male cancer charity Orchid and the Medical Research Council.

Rebecca Porta, chief executive of Orchid, said: "Every year over 35,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the UK. We need to improve our understanding of this disease and to identify new ways to treat and manage it.

"The work of Dr Yong-Jie Lu is an important step in this direction. We are very pleased to be supporting his research programme."

PTI