A recent study led by scientists at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, have identified 45 genes linked to the development and progression of prostate cancer.
The study, “Modulation of long noncoding RNAs by risk SNPs underlying genetic predispositions to prostate cancer,” was published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Their findings have potential applications for the future of clinical biomarkers to help advance tailored cancer therapies by allowing clinicians to predict not only who might develop prostate cancer, but how aggressive it could be.
Genetic alterations have long been believed to contribute to prostate cancer risk, and several genes are known to be involved in prostate cancer development. But many more have yet to be discovered.
“Cancer is very smart to take every possible way to survive and use every piece of our genome,” study author Dr. Hansen He, a scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, said in a press release. “If research only focuses on the 2 percent of the genome that is the protein-coding genes, we will have limited understanding of how the cancer can survive. We cannot achieve personalized cancer medicine without understanding the other 98 percent of our genome.”
Researchers identified 45 genes which are associated with prostate cancer activation and development. “In prostate cancer there are more than 100 known risk regions associated with the development and progression of the disease but for most of them we don’t know how,” He said. “In our work, we found that half those risk regions may function through noncoding genes.”
“Our research looked at genetic variations associated with prostate cancer and found that about half of these variations may function through noncoding genes rather than the protein-coding genes,” He, an epigeneticist, added. “In other words, we have discovered that noncoding RNA has a very important function in driving prostate cancer development and disease progression. The major contribution of our work is to the link genetic variations outside of the gene to noncoding genes rather than protein-coding genes, which have been the traditional research focus.”
The research team explored the genetic variations associated with noncoding RNA PCAT1, a factor known to be highly expressed in prostate cancer patients.
“Noncoding RNA has many functions and in this study we found that PCAT1 functions as a kind of glue to attract different protein complexes together and guide them to specific genomic location to activate their target gene expression that starts the disease process. We are going to expand this knowledge as we research the other 44 genes associated with genetic variations,” He said.