In Search of a New Prostate Cancer Biomarker

Dr. Jeremy Squire (2003 and 2005 Research Grants)

Prostatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia (PIN) is a non cancerous prostate condition but it has the potential to turn into cancer. High grade PIN, in particular, is a significant risk factor for prostate cancer. Dr. Squire’s research focuses on the links between high grade PIN and prostate cancer and he has found a promising new biomarker that may help diagnose the cases of PIN that are most likely to turn into prostate cancer. This biomarker is called a telomere. Telomeres are structures found on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from mutations and play an important role in deciding the number of times a cell can divide.

Every time an older cell divides it loses a tiny piece of DNA from the telomere. This process is called telomere attrition and it can make the telomeres too short to work properly, which causes the chromosomes to rearrange and result in genetic mutations (which in turn lead to high grade PIN and prostate cancer).

Squire’s study looked at a group of 68 men with high grade PIN (but not prostate cancer) and compared the lengths of their telomeres. The study found several significant links between short telomere length and long term diagnosis of prostate cancer – suggesting that telomere attrition in PIN is the basis of genetic mutations that cause prostate cancer.

In collaboration with local nanotechnology experts, Dr. Squire is now looking for quick and cost effective ways to measure telomere length during biopsies.

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