Finding stirs hope of genetic test for prostate cancer

    Prostate cancer sometimes clusters in a family.

    “So, father, grandfather and then several sons having had prostate cancer. That’s called penetrance, so strongly penetrant within families,” said Fox Chase Cancer Center oncologist Veda Giri.

    She says a new finding eventually could give men in those families better information about their risk for prostate cancer. Right now, there’s no test to tell men their personal risk for developing the disease.

    Giri says research from investigators at Johns Hopkins and Michigan universities is moving prostate cancer specialists a step closer to a genetic test.

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    “The real reason to do so is for men who don’t have prostate cancer in those families,” Giri said. “Did they inherit the reason for prostate cancer and if they did, they could be screened more intensively or perhaps pursue prevention options when those become widely used?”

    The study, published in January in the New England Journal of Medicine, points to a gene variant associated with a higher risk for inherited prostate cancer.

    There already are genetic tests for inherited breast and colon cancer.

    Researchers found the mutation in chromosome 17 on the HOXB13 gene.

    Giri said the discovery is exciting, but she says researchers have many more questions to answer.

    “What is the lifetime risk for a man if he carries this mutation? What is the risk for passing on this mutations to sons? If a man carries this mutation,” she said, “those kinds of things still need to be really figured out.”

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