New biomarker could lead to personalized therapies for prostate cancer

By Al Saint Jacques, MDLinx
Published April 7, 2017

Key Takeaways

Researchers, from the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, MO, are investigating more reliable tests than the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to help physicians to detect prostate cancer while helping them to treat the disease in an aging population, according to a study that was published in February 2017 issue of BMC Cancer.

There were more than 181,000 new cases of prostate cancer reported in the United States in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society. The PSA test is one of the earliest diagnostics used by clinicians to detect prostate cancers in their patients. Researchers noted that sometimes a high PSA level could be a sign of benign conditions such as inflammation. For this reason, more reliable tests are under investigation to help clinicians diagnose and treat this disease in an aging population.

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are investigating how a specific protein’s status may allow clinicians to better identify prostate cancer progression, while helping them to make rational decisions in treating the disease.

“Our research is focused on finding genetic biomarkers that help identify prostate cancer patients at risk for more aggressive diseases as well as candidates who may have successful drug treatment or response,” said Senthil Kumar the assistant director of the Comparative Oncology, Radiology and Epigenetics Laboratory (COREL) at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and the principal investigator of the study.

Study authors discovered that the testis-specific Y-like protein (TSPYL5) varied between normal patients and tumor tissues with different Gleason scores (which can range from 2 to 10), a tool used by pathologists and urologists to categorize the stages of cancer. This score can categorize patients based on disease aggressiveness, helping to determine subsequent treatment options.

This multidisciplinary team, including members from the University of Missouri School of Medicine, collected human prostate cancer samples at various stages of the disease as described by the Gleason score. The researchers discovered that TSPYL5 was present in the tissues with a Gleason score of 7, but was diminished or absent in some patients with a Gleason score of 7 and above, which could predict a more aggressive course of prostate cancer progression. In addition, they found that the presence of TSPYL5 could facilitate better drug response as tested in the prostate carcinoma cells.

“TSPYL5 testing could become one of the tools in our fight against prostate cancer,” Kumar said. “The anticipation is that we can use this biomarker for patients before they undergo any unnecessary and invasive surgeries or drug therapy plans.”

Kumar pointed out that this study needs to be conducted in larger patient cohorts to further validate its potential for clinical translation. Studies along this line are in progress, Kumar added.

This interdisciplinary team included Jeffrey N. Bryan, associate professor of veterinary oncology; James Amos-Landgraf, assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine; Magda Esebua, associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences and director of cytopathology in the MU School of Medicine; and Tanner J. May, a veterinary student at Mizzou.

Funding was provided in part by an award from the Jay Dix Challenge to Cure prostate cancer fund from the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at MU. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

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