Researchers have uncovered a “genetic fingerprint” that could help doctors identify a form of prostate cancer that spreads aggressively after radiotherapy or surgery, and is found in 30% of patients with potentially, curable localized disease.
The findings, detailed in the study “Genomic hallmarks of localized, non-indolent prostate cancer” and published in Nature, could lead to the development of better, personalized therapies that improve cure rates in prostate cancer patients.
Researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, set out to document the genetic profile of prostate cancer patients who respond differently to therapies. They began by examining the tumors of 500 Canadian men with localized, non-inherited prostate cancer who had similar clinical risk profiles.
“We used specialized state-of-the-art DNA sequencing techniques to focus on the genetics of prostate cancers to better understand what is so different from one man’s disease to another man’s disease,” Robert Bristow, MD, PhD, clinician-scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, said in a press release.
The team found a number of molecular alterations that could be used as prognostic factors, including changes in the epigenetic signature. (Prognostic factors are situations or conditions, or a characteristic of a patient, that can be used to estimate the chance of recovery or recurrence of a disease.) The alterations could outperform currently used prognostic biomarkers, the researchers said.
“These genetic fingerprints had high accuracy in being able to discern those men who do well with surgery or radiotherapy and those men that already have early spread of their disease outside the prostate gland. This information gives us new precision about the treatment response of men with prostate cancer, and important clues as to how to better treat one set of men versus the other to improve cure rates overall,” Bristow said.
Researchers hope to translate the finding into a diagnostic tool that can determine which patients will benefit from which therapies.
“The richness of information in our genetic findings today will enable us to further sort individual patients into appropriate groups of risk for spread of their disease and effect cures in men who otherwise might have been incurable,” Bristow said.
“We will be testing 500 more men over the next two to three years to accomplish that,” he added. “It is an exciting era in prostate cancer research. We will soon be able to identify in the clinic the exact genetic state of a man’s cancer and react on a patient-to-patient basis to cure more men worldwide.”