Scientists have discovered the genetic cause behind 90% of advanced prostate cancer tumors.
About 50,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually in the United Kingdom and about 10,000 will succumb to the disease when it moves into its advanced stage and spreads throughout the body.
Nine out of ten cases of late state prostate cancer are now linked to change in the DNA of sufferers.
In certain cases, there are already drugs which can tackle the genetic defects which are currently used for other cancers.
The study was led in the United Kingdom by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, in collaboration with researchers from eight academic clinical trials centers around the world.
This study sheds insight on the genetic complexity of prostate cancer as it develops and spreads. This has revealed that prostate cancer is not a single disease, but many diseases driven by their own set of mutations.
Researchers believe that doctors could now start testing for the mutations and give patients with advanced prostate cancer existing drugs or drug combinations which are known to target specific genomic aberrations.
This study’s discovery is described as prostate cancer’s Rosetta Stone, because it gives researchers the ability to decode the complexity of the disease and translate the results into personalized treatment plans for patients.
About two thirds of the men in the study had mutations in a molecule that interacts with the male hormone androgen which can already be targeted by current drugs.
Researchers also discovered that some people are born with genes which predispose them to prostate cancer, meaning that screening programs could be effective at preventing the disease.
In the next phase of the study, researchers will genetically sequence tumor cells from at least 500 patients and follow the course of their disease to see how they respond to personalized treatments.
This research was hailed by charities as incredibly exciting.