Cancer Causing Gene Located
A gene discovered by an Australian researcher could within five years lead to a test for prostate cancer that might catch the killer disease at a pre-cancerous stage.
Sydney researcher Jennifer Byrne, based at the Children's Hospital in Westmead, said her gene could be used to detect prostate cancer early enough to allow non-surgical treatment, leading to huge savings on health budgets. It would be detectable from a blood or semen test rather than the current invasive testing procedures used for prostate checks.
"What is quite remarkable about this (gene) for a cancer marker is that it could be (present) in up to 90 per cent of prostate cancers," Dr. Byrne told The Australian.
Some cancer markers are only 30 per cent effective in detecting cancerous cells.
The breakthrough was due to be detailed overnight in the US in Cancer Research, one of the world's most widely read cancer journals.
"Potentially we could have a diagnostic test within five years," Dr. Byrne said.
The publication comes after recent doubts have emerged about the efficacy of the current prostate test – the prostate-specific antigen – with a New England Journal of Medicine paper this week finding 15 per cent of older men with negative test results could still have the killer disease.
Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia chairman Max Gardner said the findings could be "exactly what we are looking for". "We need a much better marker than PSA and one that is specific to prostate cancer," Mr. Gardner said.
Cancer Council Australia chief executive Alan Coates said the key to reducing prostate cancer deaths was a marker that could pinpoint which cancers were more dangerous. Professor Coates said the indications from Dr. Byrne's work were good, but "we are not yet in a position to see whether this fulfils that role".
There are about 10,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in Australia each year, and 2500 deaths. The 37-year-old Dr. Byrne is the only Australian among the team of US and German researchers who made the finding. However, it is Dr Byrne's gene, Tumour Protein D52, which is the key to the breakthrough.
Dr. Byrne said her gene could become an important diagnostic tool because it made a protein that was present in most prostate cancers. She discovered the TPD52 gene in 1995 while researching breast cancer on a National Health and Medical Research Council fellowship in Strasbourg, France.
She said today's announcement was "the vindication of an idea I had many years ago and have been working on since".