For the first time, researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom have created a map of genetic mutations related to the most deadly type of prostate cancer, when the disease has spread to other parts of the body.
The study found that as many as 90% of men with advanced prostate cancer there are already effective treatments or ones on the way.
Researchers discovered that in the majority of patients experts can find hijacked switches in the DNA, genomic changes that can be targeted by drugs already available today or drugs that will be available in the future.
The research team conducted gene sequencing on biopsies of bone, soft tissues, lymph nodes and liver tissue of 150 patients with advanced, metastatic prostate cancer.
Generally when prostate cancer begins to metastasize, it spreads to the bone, usually in unpredictable patterns.
In order to analyze the metastases, researchers were required to identify and remove a chunk of bone that contained a tumor. According to experts, this is why progress has been slow in research on treatment for advanced prostate cancer.
About 20% of tumors samples form men in the study were found to have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These are biomarkers linked to increased risk for certain types of breast and ovarian cancer. The new findings suggest that cases of prostate cancer with these mutations are also likely to respond to PARP inhibitors similarly to breast and ovarian cancer.
The study also identified a number of new mutations that weren’t previously associated with metastatic prostate cancer. Researchers believe that these mutations of prostate cancer could be targeted with drugs currently in trial.
These findings echo a larger trend in cancer research, when it comes to identifying effective drug treatments, the site of the cancer is less significant than a particular cancer’s genetic blueprint.