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August 1, 2007

U-M Researchers Find 'Gene Fusions' Acting As 'On Switches' That Cause Prostate Cancer

Topics: Prostate Cancer

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered how genes turn on the switch that leads to prostate cancer. The team discovered that pieces of two chromosomes can trade places with each other and cause two genes to fuse together. The fused genes then override the "off" switch that keeps cells from growing uncontrollably, causing prostate cancer to develop.

The team discovered that pieces of two chromosomes can trade places with each other and cause two genes to fuse together. The fused genes then override the "off" switch that keeps cells from growing uncontrollably, causing prostate cancer to develop.

By testing these gene fusions in mice and in cell cultures, the researchers showed that the fusions are what cause prostate cancer to develop. But it's not just one set of genes that fuse. The researchers found that any one of several in a family of genes can become scrambled and fuse. Results of the study appear in the Aug. 2 issue of Nature.

"Each of these switches, or gene fusions, represent different molecular subtypes. This tells us there's not just one type of prostate cancer. It's a more complex disease and potentially needs to be treated differently in each patient," says lead study author Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, a new U-M center whose goal is to translate research into real world practice.

More here ...

Prostate cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in a man's prostate gland, and is part of the reproductive system of men. It is a doughnut-shaped gland located between the base of the penis and the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, which is the tube through which urine and semen pass. The prostate makes the fluid that nourishes and carries sperm.

Prostate cancer, which usually grows slowly, has become the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men in the US. Men who have it often die from other causes before the cancer kills them, yet prostate cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer death in American men. The prostate cancer death rate is especially high among African American men.

Cross posted from Hyscience

Posted by Richard at August 1, 2007 10:01 PM


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