Exciting Genetic Breakthroughs: Prostate Cancer

Guest blog: Dr. Robert Bristow

Recently, exciting results were announced for an international research collaboration of more than 1,000 scientists to look at the genetic basis of prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer and pinpoint the people most likely to develop each disease. The results could eventually lead to something as simple as a saliva test based on genetic markers that provide each patient with their own personal risk profile. With that in hand, patients could receive the screening most appropriate for their level of risk – those at the highest level of risk would have more intensive medical surveillance for prostate cancer.

The impact of this research on the treatment of prostate cancer is also significant. It opens the door to identify men with a lifetime risk of 50% – men who would need a different, personalized level of interaction – focused screening, and early treatment.

These findings complement the work of a major research project underway: the 
Canadian Prostate Cancer Genome Network (CPC-GENE). The aforementioned study focuses on identifying those most at risk for prostate cancer to better direct screening efforts; it does not perfectly predict which patients have indolent disease and which patients have aggressive disease.

The goal of CPC-GENE is to “crack” that prostate cancer genetic code to be able to predict personalized treatments for non-indolent and localized intermediate risk prostate cancers – a slightly more specific goal and target population. In time, this could mean that doctors could offer additional treatment options to patients whose cancer possesses genetic components that predict success or failure of a specific treatment. The CPC-GENE and associated clinicians will then escalate therapy to a specific group of patients to reduce the risk of treatment failure and improve overall rates of cure.


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