Prostate cancer could actually be five different diseases, say scientists

The findings could help doctors distinguish between more and less aggressive prostate cancers and adjust the way they are treated accordingly

Charlie Cooper
Thursday 30 July 2015 01:17 BST
A radiologist examines a prostate X-ray
A radiologist examines a prostate X-ray

Scientists have discovered that prostate cancer could in fact be five different diseases, in research that may change the way the condition is treated.

Researchers at Cancer Research UK said they had been able, for the first time, to group prostate cancer tumours into five distinct groups based on their genetic make-up.

The findings, based on analysis of 100 different genes in cancerous tissue from 250 men, could, in the future, help doctors distinguish between more and less aggressive prostate cancers, and adjust the way they are treated accordingly.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Around 41,700 cases are diagnosed each year. Aggressive cases can require intensive treatment, but other tumours can be more manageable, and some patients can end up suffering from the side effects of treatment they don’t necessarily need.

Study author Dr Alastair Lamb, from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Institute, said the implications of the results were “exciting”.

“These findings could help doctors decide on the best course of treatment for each individual patient, based on the characteristics of their tumour,” he said.

A separate study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, shows that black men are at double the risk of prostate cancer, compared to white men.

The findings reinforce previous evidence of increased risk. Experts said that black men in England had a one in four chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime.

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