New research published yesterday in the British Journal of Cancer from scientists at the University of East Anglia describes what makes certain prostate cancers more aggressive. The research involved the development of a test that is capable of quantifying the number of “aggressive” cells that a particular cancer has, thus predicting how quickly the cancer may metastasize.
Lead researcher Professor Colin Cooper commented: "Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It usually develops slowly and the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man's lifetime. However, doctors struggle to predict which tumors will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men. This means that many thousands of men are treated unnecessarily, increasing the risk of damaging side effects, including impotence from surgery."
The authors of the study say that this development has significant implications for many prostate cancer patients, with the potential to ultimately reduce the need for unnecessary invasive treatments.
Using the Latent Process Decomposition, the test itself differentiates between aggressive forms of prostate cancer and less aggressive forms. Throughout the investigation, the test also discovered three subtypes of prostate cancer that had previously been unidentified.
Researcher Vincent Moulton, a professor from UEA's School of Computing Sciences, explained: "By applying the Latent Process Decomposition process and analyzing global prostate cancer datasets, we discovered an aggressive form of prostate cancer known as DESNT - which has the worst clinical outcomes for patients."
From analyzing the genetic expression of DESNT cells, the investigators were able to determine a positive correlation between the number of these “aggressive” cells and the progression of the disease.
Co-lead researcher Dr. Daniel Brewer concluded: "If you have a tumor that is majority DESNT you are more likely to get the metastatic disease, in other words it is more likely to spread to other parts of your body. This is a much better indication of aggressive disease. We also identified three more molecular subtypes of prostate cancer that could help doctors decide on different treatment options for patients. This research highlights the importance of using more complex approaches for the analysis of genomic data.”