Genetic Data Research May Lead to New Prostate Cancer Treatments

New method examines the genetic background of tumors for more effective prostate cancer therapy.

Different approaches for deciphering genetic data could result in new prostate cancer treatments, a recent study suggests.

Research has been increasingly driven towards personalized medicine or therapies that are specifically tailored to the patient’s tumor characteristics from patient genomic data. This is because prostate cancers can have more than 1 tumor site within a prostate and each could be genetically different.

"With the availability of patient genomic data, we can look deep inside a tumor to consider its genetic background and find more effective prostate cancer treatments," said Jennifer S. Myers, a graduate student at Florida State University.

Researchers sought to determine how to best look through data that contains more than 20,000 genes in order to pinpoint any genetic changes.

"Imagine trying to find a single altered gene among a haystack of more than 20,000 genes," Myers said. "Now imagine doing this for the hundreds of thousands of men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. The task is daunting."

Targeting Prostate Cancer

In a study published in PLOS One, researchers looked at altered signal pathways instead of individual genes, allowing them to identify genetic changes in prostate cancer.

"By looking for altered pathways, we've significantly increased the size of our target," Myers said.

Even though genetic profiles can vary amongst patients, researchers hypothesized that genetic changes would converge at the pathway level.

The study showed 2 things: the alteration of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF- β) signaling pathway in prostate cancer and regulation by a type of protein called Ran, which is part of the mitotic spindle formation pathway in prostate cancer.

Even though the (TGF- β) pathway has been studied before, it is unclear what role Ran overexpression plays and the Ran/mitotic spindle pathway.

"The fact that we identified a well-studied pathway in prostate cancer gives us confidence in our method," Myers said. "Our next steps will be to confirm the significance of the Ran/mitotic spindle pathway in prostate cancer."