Gene Variant Doubles Risk of Prostate Cancer in Black Men

FRIDAY Nov. 2, 2007 -- A variant of a gene that doubles the risk of prostate cancer in black men has been identified, and researchers say the discovery could lead to new treatments.

Almost twice as many black men develop prostate cancer as white men, researchers report. This study confirms that common genetic variants are linked to increased risk for prostate cancer. One of these variants, on the 8q24 gene, confers a particularly significant risk to black men.

"We found a gene involved in increased risk for prostate cancer in African-Americans," said lead researcher Rick Kittles, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "This gene is involved in DNA repair."

In the study, Kittles' team looked at the 8q24 region of chromosome 8 and compared genotypes of 490 black men with prostate cancer to 567 controls.

Their report was published in the Oct. 31 online edition of Genome Research.

Finding these variants enables researchers to find out how the gene works in prostate cancer, Kittles said. "We hope to find more treatment options, or even prevention," he added.

"This gene is not exclusive to African-Americans," Kittles stressed. "This variant may be in higher frequency in African-Americans, but it's not exclusive to African-Americans."

Kittles' team is looking at this variant in other populations to try to determine how much of a role it plays in the risk for prostate cancer in other groups of men. "We know the variant is there. We need to see if it is involved in prostate cancer risk in these populations, too," he said.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men. This year, 27,000 men in the United States will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Black men have the highest rates of prostate cancer worldwide.

One expert thinks this study adds to an understanding of prostate cancer but has no immediate clinical application.

"It is encouraging that we are starting to identity some of these regions on the human genome that may be associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer," said Dr. Durado Brooks, director of prostate and colorectal cancer at the American Cancer Society. However, "it is unlikely that this is the only one," he added.

This variant doesn't seem to be associated with the aggressiveness of the disease, Brooks said. "It's important, but we are still a long way from having any strong clinical applicability from these findings," he said.

More information

For more on prostate cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Posted: November 2007


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