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U-M scientists reveal prostate cancer's molecular fingerprint. Study links proteins to patient prognosis.

ANN ARBOR, MI - Like most killers, prostate cancer leaves fingerprints. Every malignant cell has a unique pattern of active genes and proteins that spells the difference between benign, localized or metastatic tumors. Hidden in this molecular profile are answers to questions doctors hear every day: Is surgery really necessary? Can I afford to wait? Will the cancer come back?

Until now, physicians have been unable to decode these fingerprints, which hold the key to understanding the relationship between gene expression and future prognosis for men with prostate cancer. But a new study from the University of Michigan Medical School, published in the Aug. 23 issue of Nature, offers scientists their first look at the genetic and molecular profile of prostate cancer.

"Our study has important applications in the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of prostate cancer," says Mark Rubin, M.D., a co-author of the Nature paper and an associate professor of pathology and urology in the U-M Medical School. "The ultimate goal is to help physicians determine which patients need immediate, aggressive treatment and which can be watched and treated conservatively."

Researchers at the U-M's Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed prostate tissue samples from 50 men and found nearly 200 genes or gene fragments in which expression profiles varied consistently, depending on whether the tissue was normal or malignant.

U-M researchers used more than 80 complementary DNA microarrays to assess gene expression profiles in four types of tissue. These included normal prostate tissue from men with and without prostate cancer, tissue with benign changes, localized prostate cancer and aggressive, metastatic cancer. Tissue samples were obtained from the U-M Prostate Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) tumor bank, funded by the National Cancer Institute and directed by study co-author Kenneth Pienta, M.D., a professor of internal medicine
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Contact: Sally Pobojewski
pobo@umich.edu
734-615-6912
University of Michigan Health System
22-Aug-2001


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