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Wake Forest-Johns Hopkins team discovers prostate cancer gene

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Scientists in the Center for Human Genomics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions have discovered a gene that "may play an important role in prostate cancer susceptibility in both African-American men and men of European descent."

The 31-member team reports in the October issue of Nature Genetics that mutations in the MSR1 (for Macrophage Scavenger Receptor 1) gene were found in 4.4 percent of Caucasians who had prostate cancer, compared to 0.8 percent who were found to be unaffected following prostate cancer screening. A different mutation of the gene was found in 12.5 percent of African-American men with prostate cancer, compared to 1.82 percent of unaffected men.

Both differences are highly significant statistically. "One of the mutations leads to prostate cancer that has rapid metastasis," said Jianfeng Xu, M.D., Dr. P.H., associate professor of both public health sciences (epidemiology) and cancer biology at Wake Forest.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with more than 300,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The highest risk and the greatest mortality is among African-Americans.

Xu, Deborah A. Meyers, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics (medical genetics), S. Lilly Zheng, M.D., research assistant professor of internal medicine (pulmonary), and nine other Wake Forest researchers, said in their report, "We provide novel genetic evidence that MSR1 may play an important role in prostate cancer susceptibility." MSR1 was already known for its role in hardening of the arteries.

They said they had found seven potentially important mutations of the MSR1 gene -- including the rapidly metastasizing form that truncates (and makes dysfunctional) the MSR1 protein -- in families with hereditary prostate cancer. "Importantly, they were either not observed or observed less frequently in men without prostate cancer," they reported.

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Contact: Robert Conn, Jim Steele or Mark Wright
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
15-Sep-2002


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