What they want to find out
It’s known there is a genetic component to prostate cancer, and that men who are black, or who have 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 would be willing to undergo more intensive prostate screening and took samples for genetic analysis .
The team is now conducting a larger-scale study, called PROFILE. They’re recruiting healthy men with a family history of prostate cancer, and healthy African/Caribbean men aged 40-69. The trial team will take blood and tissue sames to collect genetic information about the men. They’ll then monitor the men for development of the disease over five years, using PSA testing. Men can also choose to undergo an MRI scan and prostate biopsy. They will assess whether men with certain genetic features are more likely to develop prostate cancer that requires treatment, and so may benefit from additional prostate cancer screening.
Progress so far
So far the team have finished recruiting men with a family history of the disease. Now, they are continuing to recruit black men until February 2021.