An OMRF scientist has helped make an important new finding about the genetic roots of prostate cancer. The discovery could lead to new diagnostic tools to help physicians identify patients at greater risk for the deadly disease.
In the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, OMRF scientist Hong Chen, Ph.D., and a team of scientists from the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center describe their discovery of a genetic mutation that appears linked to prostate cancer.
This newly discovered mutation, known technically as DAB2IP, may play a critical role in the development and spread of an aggressive form of prostate cancer. If not diagnosed quickly, the cancer can metastasize and spread throughout the body, making recovery nearly impossible.
“Using genetic tests, it was found that this polymorphism—a change in DNA—made it much more likely for patients to develop prostate cancer,” said Chen, an assistant member of OMRF’s Cardiovascular Biology Research Program.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetimes. Nearly 200,000 new cases are predicted to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2010, with the disease expected to claim more than 25,000 American lives this year.
Future research efforts, said Chen, will investigate the use of the newly discovered mutation as a diagnostic tool. Developing a new diagnostic tool would help physicians spot patients who are at a greater risk of developing the cancer, which is currently diagnosed by a biopsy in most cases.
“Hopefully this will lead to a predictive target, so we can diagnose the cancer faster and reduce the number of deaths,” Chen said. “With this type of cancer, if it’s not found quickly, it might be too late.”
Chen said her lab is also looking for a therapeutic that would act as a “roadblock” to these cancers’ growth. “If we could keep the blood from reaching the cancers, they would starve and ultimately die,” she said.
Her research is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, and the American Heart Association.
Chen came to OMRF in 2008 from Yale University as part of the foundation’s expansion efforts.
“Getting the opportunity to work at OMRF has been fantastic,” she said. “I truly love it here and I’m glad I’ve made Oklahoma my new home.”