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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 03:28 GMT 04:28 UK
Genes 'determine prostate cancer'
Prostate cancer kills one man every hour
Prostate cancer kills one man every hour
A man's genetic make-up could have a direct bearing on his chance of developing prostate cancer, scientists have found.

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research say genes which play an important role in the immune system and the formation of blood vessels could also cause men to be more susceptible to prostate cancer.

They say the genes could also influence how the disease progresses.

Prostate cancer is predicted to be the most common cancer in men by 2006.


There is a pressing need for such advances

Professor Gordon McVie, Cancer Research UK
It is said to kill one man every hour in the UK.

The eight-year study looked at over 200 prostate cancer patients and a group of healthy patients.

Protection

Scientists analysed genes that produce proteins called cytokines.

They also looked at the DNA in five cytokine genes in each patient.

In three of the genes there were statistically significant differences between the groups.

People whose genes produced lower levels of a cytokine called VEGF seemed to have protection against prostate cancer.

The VEGF protein is important in helping the body - and tumours - to grow new blood vessels.

Therefore, having lower levels of VEGF makes it more difficult for tumours to grow.

A link was also identified between changes to one of the cytokines and the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) level in patients, which is currently used to determine prognosis of the disease.

The research was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Prostate Cancer Charitable Trust, and carried out in collaboration with Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust.

'Exciting advance'

Dr Ros Eeles, expert on male cancers at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: "Prostate cancer is a complex disease so this is a very exciting advance although we still have a long way to go before we can fully understand this type of cancer."

Professor Gordon McVie, of Cancer Research UK, welcomed the findings, which he said would help understanding of prostate cancer and help development of better-targeted and more effective treatments.

"There is a pressing need for such advances, particularly as men are living longer and prostate cancer is becoming increasingly common.

"This is a good step in the right direction," he said.

The research was published in the journal Cancer Research.

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