Scientists from Cancer Research UK have discovered that there are five different types of prostate cancer and have found a way of distinguishing between them. These findings could change how the condition is treated, providing more effective therapies where they are needed the most.
The researchers have been able to categorize prostate cancer tumors into five distinct types based on their genetic make-up and identify the ones that are more likely to grow and spread aggressively.
Professor Malcolm Mason, a prostate cancer expert from Cancer Research UK, says:
The challenge in treating prostate cancer is that it can either behave like a pussycat - growing slowly and unlikely to cause problems in a man's lifetime - or a tiger - spreading aggressively and requiring urgent treatment. But at the moment we have no reliable way to distinguish them. This means that some men may get treatment they don't need, causing unnecessary side effects, while others might benefit from more intensive treatment.”
Lead author of the study Alastair Lamb and colleagues analysed the activity of 100 different genes linked to the disease in cancerous tissues from more than 250 men and were able to group them into five distinct types. The team found that the analysis was more successful at predicting which cancer was probably the most aggressive than the tests doctors currently use, including the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and Gleason score.
Lamb calls the discovery “exciting” and says:
These findings could help doctors decide on the best course of treatment for each individual patient, based on the characteristics of their tumor.”
"This research could be game-changing if the results hold up in larger clinical trials and could give us better information to guide each man's treatment - even helping us to choose between treatments for men with aggressive cancers,” says Mason. “Ultimately this could mean more effective treatment for the men who need it, helping to save more lives and improve the quality of life for many thousands of men with prostate cancer.”