Prostate Cancer Mystery Uncovered in New University of Pittsburgh Study

Prostate Cancer Mystery Uncovered in New Pitt Study

prostate-cancer-symptonsAccording to findings in a study from the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine, eight gene mutations known as gene fusions is raising hope of better treatment options and new targets in the treatment of patients with aggressive forms of prostate cancer. This is an enormous step in the right direction for the cancer treatment community and scientist will be looking forward to being able to detect aggressive forms of prostate cancer sooner. Here we will take a brief look at prostate cancer and potential treatments before discussing this new discovery.

What is Prostate Cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is cancer that forms in tissues of the prostate (a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum). Prostate cancer usually occurs in older men. 

Treatment of Prostate Cancer

Depending on the situation, the treatment options for men with prostate cancer may include: Expectant management (watchful waiting) or active surveillance. Physicians will generally choose this option for tumors that are beyond active treatment. Second, the doctor may feel more harm can be done by treating the tumor too soon. Treatment may not be indicated if the tumor is not big enough.

Surgery is another alternative and is sometimes coupled with radiation and chemotherapy treatments for more aggressive forms of prostate cancer. The process usually involves the removal of all or part of the tumor. In most cases, the goal is to remove as much as the tumor as possible.

Radiation therapy involved treating the tumor with radiation. Radiation therapy is known to invoke certain side effects and offers no guarantees in shrinking or eliminating tumor growth. It is however an effective treatment when couple with other forms of prostate cancer treatment. 

Cryosurgery (cryotherapy) is a treatment that uses extreme cold to treat cancer patients. The hope is to counter the metabolic reproduction of the tumor cells to either slow rapid growth or stop growth all together.

Hormone therapy is also known as Androgen Therapy Treatment (ADT). The goal here is to reduce levels of androgens because androgens stimulate cancer cells to grow.

Chemotherapy is a part of the cancer treatment regime that involves the uses of chemicals to treat cancer patients. This type of therapy’s effectiveness is often increased when coupled with radiation treatment.

Vaccine treatment is used to primarily boost the immune system as most individuals undergoing cancer treatments have a very low immunity and are at high risk for complications.

Bone directed treatment is often used when cancer has spread to the bones causing the patient pain and can lead to the breaking of bones as well.

The overall goal of all treatment regimens are to reduce tumor size and extend the life of the patient diagnosed with cancer while also helping to improve the patient’s quality of life in the case of the individual being in stage for or end stage cancer. In this case a physician’s goal may not be to treat the cancer but to simply provide comfort.

Prostate Cancer Statistics:

  • An Estimated 233,000 New cases and
  • 29,480 Deaths recorded in 2014 in the United States.
  •  Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most typical cancer in American men.
  • About 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.
  • Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men.
  • About 6 instances in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older
  • The typical age during the period of identification is all about 66.
  • About 1 guy in 36 will die of prostate cancer.
  • Prostate cancer may be a significant disease, but most men diagnosed with don’t die from it.

The Study

The study was conducted using 289 prostate cancer samples. 76 of those patient’s samples found to contain one or more of eight gene fusions. 69 of the 76 patients found with those gene fusions had prostate cancer that returned, metastasized or led to the death of the patient.

Patients who were found to have the mere existence of these fusions invoked a 91 percent likelihood cancer recurrence could be predicted as compared to only 37 percent likelihood of those men found without any of the fusions

Another major finding in this study also showed that samples containing even one of three specific fusions had a 100 percent chance of cancer recurrence. There in-lies the big advantage here. Giving doctors the ability to accurately predict when a patient will have recurrence of his prostate cancer means that doctors will have a head start on aggressive cancers and not waste any valuable time with unnecessary or ineffective treatment options. Being sure the outcome will outweigh the risk is an important part in determining what treatment options are best for patients.

The gene fusions can occur as a result of various factors including exposure to radiation, other environmental risks that can damage genes. Once these gene fusions are discovered, aggressive treatment can include removal of the prostate (prostatectomy), radiation and/or hormone therapy, among others, as opposed to watchful waiting to monitor the cancer’s progress. 

According to Dr. Luo (One of the doctors conducting the study) said the end result of the gene fusions result in “wrong pieces and wrong DNA”…being attached to one another.

In order to discover the eight gene fusions, the Pitt team sequenced all RNA in the human genome 1,333 times. They also sequenced the entire human genome 30 times. 

Although this new finding is definitely good news to the cancer treatment society at large, The Pitt test would not serve as a means of prostate cancer prevention, or early detection or risk assessment, but would be used to test tissue in prostate biopsies that are positive for cancer in order to predict aggressiveness.

Described by the team as long-awaited good news, the team has already begun research on the newly discovered gene fusions as targets for potential treatments.

Knowing what we know now about these gene fusions, the goal is to catch the more aggressive ones and treat them right away and do more watchful waiting for the other ones.

>Learn more about the prostate gland

>Learn more about prostate cancer


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