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U-M scientists find new genetic marker for prostate cancer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Using the power of advanced DNA microarray technology, scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School have identified a gene that triggers production of large amounts of a specific protein in cancerous prostate cells. Because the protein is present only in malignant cells and is easily visible when stained, it could improve the accuracy and sensitivity of screening tests for prostate cancer the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men.

The protein is an enzyme involved in fat metabolism called a-methylacyl-CoA racemase, or AMACR for short. AMACR has never before been associated with any type of cancer according to Mark A. Rubin, M.D., and Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., the scientists who directed the U-M research study. Results will be published in the April 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

We detected high levels of AMACR protein in over 95 percent of more than 300 prostate tissue samples that contained localized cancer, says Chinnaiyan, an assistant professor of pathology in the U-M Medical School. Equally important, we found no AMACR protein in benign prostate tissue or in tissue with non-malignant cell changes. We then evaluated the clinical utility of AMACR immunostaining on 94 prostate needle biopsies; the sensitivity and selectivity ratings were 97 percent and 100 percent.

AMACR is one of approximately 20 genes which we found to be over-expressed consistently in prostate cancer, Chinnaiyan adds. This doesnt mean that these genes cause prostate cancer, but they can be a marker or indicator of prostate cancer for diagnostic or prognostic purposes.

AMACRs accuracy and specificity is a major improvement over the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test the only diagnostic screening test currently available to physicians. The beauty of AMACR is that it is cancer-specific and found only in malignant cells, says Rubin, an associate professor of pathology and surgery
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Contact: Sally Pobojewski
pobo@umich.edu
734-615-6912
University of Michigan Health System
2-Apr-2002


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