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Better prognosis markers for prostate cancer found
18 February 2010
Measuring levels of the active form of the protein EGFR in the tumor and its vicinity can provide a more reliable prognosis for individuals with prostate cancer. This is what Umeå University researcher Peter Hammarsten and his associates write in a study in the leading scientific journal Clinical Cancer Research.
One of the major problems with prostate cancer is that, with today's prognosis markers, some 70-80 percent of patients wind up in a group where very little can be said about their prognosis. Unfortunately, today no methods to are good enough determine which patients truly need treatment and which ones can get along fine without the difficult treatment. This in turn means that certain patients are over-treated with therapies that can lead to serious side effects and that other patients who really need intensive treatment do not get it or get it too late.
In a study recently published in the scientific journal Clinical Cancer Research, Hammarsten studied tissue biopsies from prostate tumors in 259 patients and found a new prognosis marker for prostate cancer. It is the active form of the protein EFGR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) that was shown to provide information about the aggressiveness of the tumor, both when it is measured in the tumor or in the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
EGFR belongs to the same family as the prognosis marker HER2, which is used today for breast cancer to determine the aggressiveness of a tumor that is to be treated with inhibitors of HER2, that is, the drug Herceptin. In a similar way, it may be possible in the future to use the active form of EGFR to select patients with a poor prognosis and are suitable for treatment with inhibitors of EGFR. In order to use EGFR as a prognosis marker clinically in the future, further studies will need to target its expressions in other and larger material in prostate tumors.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer form among men in Sweden. Every year some 10,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Some 2,500 of them will die of their disease. In other words, some patients have an aggressive fatal disease, whereas others have a slowly growing tumor that will not cause any major problems.