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New Fnding Increases Chances of Rapid Detection and Targeted Treatment

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Men with a faulty gene known to increase the risk of breast cancer in women are four times more likely to develop prostate cancer, important new research published in the British Journal of Cancer shows.

A recent study, funded by Prostate Action and Cancer Research UK, shows that men with a mutated BRCA1 gene, found in those with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, are more prone to a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer.

It is hoped that this research, led by The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, will have a significant impact on potential screening and treatment procedures for prostate cancer patients. Early detection of the mutated BRCA1 gene could enable doctors to monitor those with a greater risk of prostate cancer from an early age, resulting in earlier diagnosis and more targeted treatment.

Age is currently the greatest risk factor for the disease, with over half of cases in the UK found in men over the age of 70. However, of the 913 men screened during the study, three quarters of those with the BRCA1 mutation were diagnosed before the age of 65, a clear indication that this gene could serve as an early warning for those at risk of developing prostate cancer later in life.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men worldwide, with the number of men diagnosed in the UK now greater than those with lung cancer. 37,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and the disease claims 10,000 lives every year. In fact, thanks in part to shockingly low rates of awareness, a man dies of prostate cancer every hour in the UK.

Despite this, recent research shows that 70% of men know absolutely nothing about the disease or its symptoms. Broader awareness of signs and symptoms among men, and a greater recognition of what to do when they are experienced, could save thousands of lives every year.

Prostate Action Chief Executive, Emma Malcolm, said, “Early detection of prostate cancer can vastly improve the chances of successful treatment but at the moment there isn’t an effective way of screening for the disease. We’ve long known about the link between breast cancer and prostate cancer and this research confirms the likelihood of men developing prostate cancer from the inherited faulty BRCA1 gene. Once gene testing becomes faster and cheaper we may be able to identify those men at a higher risk of prostate cancer and monitor them from an early age.”

Study author Professor Ros Eeles, from The Institute of Cancer Research, said, “Until now there has been some doubt as to whether mutations in the BRCA1 gene increase the risk of prostate cancer. This large study has shown that men with prostate cancer have a 1 in 200 chance of having an alteration of this gene and men with this alteration have a 3.8 fold increased risk of developing the disease. This translates as nearly 9% risk of prostate cancer by the age of 65. The important thing about this result is that there are drugs that can target specific defects that occur with the BRCA1 mutation and this kind of result can open up the possibility of targeted medicines based on genetics.”

Josephine Querido, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said, “We suspected that men who inherited a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene had a higher risk of prostate cancer, and this study shows us exactly how much this increases their risk. This will help doctors find the best way to monitor these men and select the right treatments for them. Research like this will lead to new opportunities for preventing, diagnosing and treating the disease.”

Study: Germline BRCA1 mutations increase prostate cancer risk

Source: Prostate Action