Researchers from the University of York in the UK have created a new method to distinguish the severity of a prostate cancer diagnosis, creating new pathways for treatment in the future.
Subjecting patients with manageable prostate cancers to the same types of treatment that patients with more aggressive cancers can lead to unnecessary side effects if the patient doesn’t require such aggressive treatments. Chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, can have side effects including incontinence and erectile dysfunction. If a patient can avoid having to go through these procedures — and avoid those possible side effects — it is obviously preferable, but only if there are ways to ensure the patient’s cancer isn’t aggressive.
That’s where this new research comes into play. University researchers, in conjunction with a team of scientists from Canada’s University of British Columbia, have together designed new testing procedures that can differentiate manageable prostate cancers and fatal ones with an accuracy rate of up to 92%. The research, published recently in the British Journal of Cancer, has the potential to reduce the number of unnecessary treatments provided to patients going forward. This enables patients with manageable prostate cancers to avoid unnecessary treatments and instead be subject to active monitoring.
Gene Expression Patterning
Scientists have long known that in order to classify different types of cancers, genetic differences between cancer cells and healthy cells need to be compared. The researchers involved in this study subjected more than 500 samples of cancer tissue to analysis in order to compare them to healthy versions of these same tissues in an effort to find chemical group patterns that could earmark the specific type of cancer a patient may be suffering from.
This proved a challenge, as there are a number of different factors that can alter gene expression within the human body. Many of these factors are natural — age, for example, can genetically trigger hormonal changes such as puberty and menopause. The problem, of course, is when this process malfunctions. The scientists had their work cut out for them, therefore, in finding genetic markers that indicated not just cancer, but the severity of the cancer — no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination!