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Genetic signposts for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer found

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists had previously discovered genetic markers that show a patient's risk for ovarian, prostate and breast cancer. According to Douglas Easton of Cambridge University, more recent discoveries have now found several clues about the biological underpinnings of these cancers, which may pay off in better therapies in the near future, he said.
 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A concerted global effort can now reveal further a person's risk for breast, ovarian or prostate cancer. The study involved more than 100 institutions and genetic tests on 200,000 people.

The study examined the intricate mechanisms that led to the cancers. The potential benefit for patients is that there be genetic tests that help identify women who would benefit most from mammograms, as well as men who could benefit most from PSA tests and prostate biopsies.

The genetic clues may also lead to new treatments. "This adds another piece to the puzzle," Chief Executive of Cancer Research U.K Harpal Kumar says.

With this approach, men whose ancestral background gives them roughly a 20 percent lifetime risk for prostate cancer, such genetic markers could identify those whose real risk is 60 percent.

These genetic markers could also could make a difference for women with BRCA gene mutations, which earmark them at a higher risk for breast cancer. Researchers may be able to separate those whose lifetime risk exceeds 80 percent from women, whose risk is about 20 to 50 percent, meaning some women could then choose to monitor for cancer in lieu of having healthy breasts removed.

Doctors not involved with the report say that while this is encouraging, more research is needed to see how useful it would be for guiding patient care. One suggested that using a gene test along with PSA testing coupled with other factors may help determine which men have enough risk of a life-threatening prostate cancer to get a biopsy. Many prostate cancers found early are slow-growing and won't be fatal, but there is no way to differentiate and many men have surgery they may not need.

Breast cancer, by far the most common malignancy among women records a million new cases annually. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men after lung cancer, with about 900,000 new cases every year. Ovarian cancer accounts for about four percent of all cancers diagnosed in women, causing about 225,000 cases worldwide.

Scientists used scans of DNA from more than 200,000 people to seek the markers, tiny variations in the three billion "letters" of the DNA code that are associated with disease risk.

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