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Prostate cancer genetic secrets unraveled by new study

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A team of researchers have unravelled genetic secrets of prostate cancer through a study wherein they have revealed the reason why men with a family history of prostate cancer who also carry the BRCA2 gene fault have a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.

A consortium of Melbourne and Toronto researchers worked to unlock the secrets of why prostate cancer in BRCA2 men behaves aggressively. This study is a part of a larger study that previously found that men who carried the BRCA2 gene fault were at a higher risk of having a more aggressive form of prostate cancer if a cell pathology known as IDCP (intraductal carcinoma of the prostate) was present. While the reasons behind this were not clear, the latest study published in Nature Communications explains why this happens.

Researchers carried out genomic analyses of cancerous prostate and found that early, untreated, prostate cancers were genetically similar to cancers that are usually seen in men with more advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. This was in contrast to the cancers seen in men who don’t carry a BRCA2 gene fault and who rarely have cancer spread at diagnosis. This was confirmed when compared to data from a companion study, published at the same time in Nature and led by the Toronto group, which looked at prostate cancer tissue samples from more than 320 patients with prostate cancer who don’t carry a BRCA2 gene fault.

Put together, these studies identified why the presence of the BRCA2 gene fault led to markedly different clinical outcomes, with the disease progressing rapidly in this group of men.

Researchers explain that their findings show how different these tumours are from ‘regular’ tumours and emphasises the importance of men knowing if they have a family history of prostate, breast or ovarian cancer in their family and may carry the BRCA2 gene fault.

Authors of the study add that findings indicate that the BRCA2 fault is seen in many more men presenting with advanced prostate cancer than previously realised. Also, as prostate cancer progresses, the BRCA2 fault begins to develop in prostate cancer secondaries, and drives the aggressive behaviour of the cancer. Therefore these new findings detailing the genomic instability of BRCA2 prostate cancer are important as we may be able to target this with new therapies.

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