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Genetic breakthrough could see personalised prostate treatment

Almost nine out of ten men with advanced prostate cancer carry genetic mutations in their tumours that could be targeted by either existing or new cancer drugs, according to a study that scientists hope will make possible a new era of personalised cancer treatment.

Picture credit: SPL

Doctors at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London and at hospitals in the United States collected large numbers of samples of metastatic cancers from patients during their treatment. Researchers analysed the genetic codes of metastatic tumours from the bone, soft tissues, lymph nodes and liver of 150 patients with advanced cancer.

Nearly two thirds of the patients had mutations in a molecule that interacts with the male hormone androgen, potentially opening up new avenues for treatment. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were found in nearly 20% of participants. Recent work at the Royal Marsden has shown that these patients can be treated effectively by drugs called PARP inhibitors. The researchers also found 8% of patients had DNA errors that predisposed them to prostate cancer, which could strengthen the case for genetic screening.

Study author Johann de Bono, a consultant at the Royal Marsden, called the study ‘prostate cancer’s Rosetta Stone – because of the ability it gives us to decode the complexity of the disease’.

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