What they want to find out
It’s known there is a genetic component to prostate cancer, and that men with a family history of the disease (like a father, brother, uncle or grandfather with prostate cancer) are more likely to get the disease themselves. Some of these cases are also more likely to get prostate cancer that requires treatment, instead of cancer that can be watched on active surveillance without having immediate treatment.
A few genetic changes, like a mutation in a gene called BRCA2, are found in a small population of men and are known to have a big contribution to their genetic risk of prostate cancer. But for most men, it’s that not simple, and it’s thought there are many genetic changes that have a small individual effect, but add up to give a significant risk of developing prostate cancer.
Professor Ros Eeles and her team have helped identify over 160 of these genetic features, which contribute to the genetic risk of prostate cancer. In this study, they want to test whether these genetic features can be used as a way to spot which men should be prioritised for prostate cancer screening. This should help men with cancer that needs urgent treatment get diagnosed sooner, while others can avoid unnecessary treatments. The study will also help the researchers understand the role of genetics in developing prostate cancer.
How they’re going about it
The team have already conducted a small-scale (pilot) version of this study. They assessed if men with a family history would accept more intensive prostate screening and took samples for genetic profiling which are currently being analysed.
The team is now conducting a larger-scale study, called PROFILE. They’re recruiting 350 men with a family history of prostate cancer. They’ll determine their genetic profile to work out how high they score on the genetic features linked to prostate cancer. They’ll then monitor the men for development of the disease over five years, using PSA testing, an MRI scan and prostate biopsy. They will assess if men that score higher on the genetic profile are more likely to develop disease that requires treatment.
Progress so far
So far the team have started to recruit men, and are planning to continue recruitment for the next year.