Scientists identify 80 weaknesses in prostate cancer that drugs could target

Weaknesses in prostate cancer that could be targeted by drugs have been identified by scientists, in the most comprehensive study of its kind.

An international team, led by the Institute of Cancer Research in London, analysed genetic information from the tumours of nearly a thousand patients, and found 80 potential lines of attack.

The research has improved understanding of the genetics behind the disease and could aid the development of new treatments, the scientists said.

Lead author Professor Ros Eeles (pictured), of the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “Our study applied cutting-edge techniques in Big Data analysis to unlock a wealth of new information about prostate cancer and possible ways to combat the disease.

“One of the challenges we face in cancer research is the complexity of the disease and the sheer number of ways we could potentially treat it – but our study will help focus our efforts on the areas that offer most promise for patient benefit.”

Researchers analysed data from 930 prostate cancer patients to identify genetic changes which lead to the development and spread of the disease.

Of the 80 molecular weaknesses identified, 11 are already targeted by existing drugs and seven by drugs in clinical trials, while 62 were identified as potential targets to explore in future studies.

The analysis, the most comprehensive study into the genes driving prostate cancer, has opened up new possible routes to treat the disease.

Co-author Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “This study has uncovered a remarkably large number of new genes that drive the development of prostate cancer, and given us vital information about how to exploit the biology of the disease to find potential new treatments.

“We hope our findings will stimulate a wave of new research into the genetic changes and potential drug targets we have identified, with the aim that patients should benefit as soon as possible.”

Dr Justine Alford, from Cancer Research UK, which helped fund the study, said: “A major hurdle to making further progress against prostate cancer is the lack of a way to accurately predict how a person’s disease will progress, making it challenging to know which treatment is best for each patient.

“By greatly enhancing our understanding of the genetics behind the disease, this research edges us closer towards that goal.

“If confirmed by further research, in the future this knowledge could help doctors better tailor treatments to an individual’s cancer, and hopefully see more people survive their disease.”

The findings of the study are published in journal Nature Genetics.

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