Scientists have determined a way to distinguish fatal prostate cancer from manageable cancer. This could subsequently reduce unnecessary exposure to surgeries and radiotherapy for patients with prostate cancer.
Researchers at the University of York and the University of British Columbia, Canada, have designed a DNA methylation signature that could identify aggressive life-threatening prostate cancers, with an accuracy of up to 92%. Professor Maitland, the lead author of the study says: "The challenge in prostate cancer is how to look at all of these patterns within a cell, but hone in on the gene activity that suggests cancer, and not only this, what type of cancer – dangerous or manageable?"
Human prostate cancers display several DNA methylation changes compared with normal prostate tissue. Researchers analysed >500 cancer tissue samples and compared them with non-cancer samples to evaluate patterns of DNA methylation. They further used a computer algorithm for the elimination of 'noise' in genetic patterns to finally derive 17 epigenetic markers for prostate cancer.
"Unnecessary prostate treatment has both physical consequences for patients and their families, but is also a substantial financial burden on the NHS, where each operation will cost around £10,000," Professor Maitland added.