Queensland researchers have identified two genetic variations they hope will make it easier to assess whether patients have an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Variations affect the level of prostate-specific antigens (PSA), a protein produced by the prostate gland cells. Increased levels indicate the likely presence of prostate cancer.
The team at the Queensland University of Technology are looking at how these variations affect how the tumour cells grow and how they also migrate and invade beyond the tumour itself.
The gene variations, which are present within the protein coding area and actually make the PSA protein, were found in patients with lower PSA levels, but that did not necessarily mean the men were tumour-free – it just meant they had the genetic variation.
These gene variations can directly change the PSA protein structure and PSA protein stability and it has a direct implication on the PSA which is produced in the cell.
The QUT researchers said the next step was looking at how testing could incorporate the new gene variation discovery to help determine those patients with the aggressive disease and those who just need to be observed.
According to the Cancer Council, which is funding the study, prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men and the third most common cause of cancer death. By 2017 there will be 200,000 Australian men living with a diagnosis of prostate cancer. In 85 per cent of cases a tumour is benign or slow growing and may just need to be monitored.
Dr Peter Swindle is a Brisbane based urologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. Call (07) 3010 3333 for more information.