Genetic Biomarkers Help to Better Predict Prostate Cancer Risk

Researchers find 23 new prostate cancer risk sites on the genome.

Researchers find 23 new prostate cancer risk sites on the genome.

The risk of developing prostate cancer may soon be more accurately predicted after a recent analysis of the disease’s genetic biomarkers.

In a study published September 16, 2014, in Nature Genetics, researchers from Australia examined more than 10 million genetic markers in a sample of 80,000 men. The analysis revealed 23 new prostate cancer risk sites on the genome beyond 76 previously identified known sites.

"We now have 100 genetic regions and no other cancer has had this many loci identified to be associated with it,” said study lead Jyotsna Batra, MD. “What we are looking for is the combination effect of how these loci work together and how much they can explain the heritability of prostate cancer. The indications are that these genetic variants explain 33% of the familial risk of the disease.”

In looking at a total of 100 low-risk gene variants, the researchers found that the top 1% of men with these variants have a 5.7-fold relative risk for prostate cancer when compared with the population average. Beyond family history, the researchers determined that utilizing information on the carrier status of the 100 genetic risk variants could help to define the risk levels for prostate cancer through targeted screening and prevention programs.

The multi-ethnic analysis additionally revealed some risk variants to be more common among various ethnic populations. The aggressive form of the gene was found to be prevalent in Africa, with some risk genes specific to African populations, the researchers noted.

Among the 23 new variants, the study revealed 15 in men of European ancestry and 7 in multi-ethnic analyses.

In the sample population, the study determined that men with the non-aggressive form of prostate cancer outnumbered men with the aggressive form of the disease, which was only 10%.

"So far, we haven't identified the loci for the aggressive form of the disease -- research is ongoing on this. The next sample set will have more than 100,000 people with prostate cancer," Dr. Batra said. "Being able to predict the aggressive form before it goes on to spread is a goal of the future research because even after the prostate is removed a few cells can go on to kill the person."