Gene may help doctors predict killer cancers

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The discovery of a prostate cancer gene could lead to the development of a test to predict which forms of the disease will become fatal, researchers announced yesterday.

The discovery of a prostate cancer gene could lead to the development of a test to predict which forms of the disease will become fatal, researchers announced yesterday.

Scientists from the Institute of Cancer research said the discovery of the gene E2F3 could lead to the development of a test to tell which cancers needed to be removed and which could be safely left alone.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with 27,000 new cases a year. But most men can live with the cancer without any ill effects.

However, some prostate cancers are aggressive and there is currently no means of telling which they are. As a result, patients face the dilemma of whether to choose treatment, including surgery and hormonal treatment, which carries the risk of causing serious side effects including incontinence and impotence.

Professor Colin Cooper, who led the research team, said: "A test to distinguish between aggressive tumours, the tigers, and those that are pussycats, has been the Holy Grail of prostate cancer research. Many thousands of men are being given invasive treatments that they do not require, but we have been unable to distinguish them from the men who urgently need lifesaving treatment.

"Now we know that the E2F3 gene is implicated in prostate cancer and that it is key in determining how aggressive the cancer is, we hope to be able to develop such a test within the next five years."

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