Ros Eeles talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Breaking Paper in the field of Molecular
Biology & Genetics.
Article Title: Multiple newly identified loci
associated with prostate cancer
RA, et al.
Journal: NAT GENET
Year: MAR 2008
* Inst Canc Res, 15 Cotswold Rd, Sutton SM2 5NG, Surrey,
* Inst Canc Res, Sutton SM2 5NG, Surrey, England.
* Royal Marsden NHS Fdn Trust, Sutton SM2 5PT, Surrey,
* Royal Marsden NHS Fdn Trust, London SW3 6JJ,
(addresses have been truncated)
Why do you think your paper is highly
Until recently, little has been understood about the heritability of
prostate cancer. Historically, it has been regarded as a "Cinderella"
cancer, lagging behind illnesses such as breast cancer and lung cancer in
terms of both awareness and research. However, as prostate cancer is now
the second biggest killer of men over the age of 60, more attention and
resources have been paid to understanding the causes and development of
"These results were only possible
due to the Human Genome Project and the
developments in genetic technology which have
enabled studies of thousands of genetic
variants to be observed in thousands of
samples at an affordable
Our research has confirmed that there is indeed a heritable component to
the disease causation, and these initial findings show the incredible
potential scope for further study in this area. With better genetic
knowledge about the causes of the disease, doctors and researchers will be
equipped to target care more personally for those who show a genetic
As the findings in cancer genetics progress at an exponential rate,
prostate cancer is one of the first disease areas where we can see a
potential benefit for patients in terms of targeting screening for
patients, and we hope, a more individualized approach to prevention and
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
The research uncovered that genetic alterations are very close to a gene
called "microseminoprotein, beta-" (MSMB), which could possibly be used in
screening for prostate cancer and disease monitoring. Another of the sites
harbors a gene called "lemur tyrosine kinase 2" (LMTK2) which might be a
target for new treatments. The data suggest these newly identified genetic
alterations are present in over half of all prostate cancer cases. They
each increase a person's risk of the disease by up to 60 %.
There are probably many different factors that influence the development of
prostate cancer, but particular combinations of genes are thought to play a
major part. These results represent the largest number of genetic risk
factors found in one genome-wide cancer association study to date.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper in
The team studied the differences in the genetic makeup of over 10,000 men
in total, making it the largest genetic prostate cancer study ever
undertaken. They started by scanning the DNA of men who were thought to be
at higher genetic risk of prostate cancer because they had been diagnosed
with the disease at or younger than the age of 60 or had a family history
of prostate cancer. They then compared these results with a control group
of men who did not have the disease but lived in similar areas.
In the next stage, they looked to see if these genetic variants could be
found more frequently in men with prostate cancer than in men without the
disease. They studied 3,268 men with prostate cancer from the UK and
Australia and 3,366 men who did not have the disease.
How did you become involved in this research, and were
there any problems along the way?
This work is the result of over 10 years of collaborative preparation when
we set up the study blood sample collections and collaborations. These
results were only possible due to the Human Genome Project and the
developments in genetic technology which have enabled studies of thousands
of genetic variants to be observed in thousands of samples at an affordable
Where do you see your research leading in the
A more tailored approach towards screening, prevention, and treatment for
prostate cancer. If we have a fuller understanding of man's genetic
profile, we can provide more specific advice and recommend those treatments
which have the greatest chance of overcoming cancer.
Do you foresee any social or political implications for
These results make the genetic profiling of populations, in order to be
able to tailor healthcare, a reality. This will result in a mindshift in
the way that medicine is practiced from a population-wide screening
approach to a tailored one.
Medicine will become more proactive and preventative based on tailored risk
assessment. The challenge will be interpretation of the genetic variants
and assessment of their interaction with lifestyle in order to enable
healthcare professionals to develop tailored prevention programs which are
Dr. Ros Eeles
Translational Cancer Genetics Team
Section of Cancer Genetics
The Institute of Cancer Research
& The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Sutton, Surrey, UK Web