Technology & Science

Prostate cancer genome to be decoded

Prostate cancer's genetic mutations will be mapped under a new $20 million Canadian research project that aims to improve diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Prostate cancer's genetic mutations will be mapped under a new $20 million Canadian research project that aims to eventually improve diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

The Canadian Prostate Cancer Genome Network will identify changes in the DNA sequences of prostate cancer.

The project is part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium, which is also looking at more than 10,000 tumours in the blood, brain, breast, colon, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, stomach, oral cavity and ovaries.

Currently for men with prostate cancer, doctors evaluate the stage of cancer and use the PSA blood test that reflects the health of the prostate and the Gleason score, which is based on how aggressive the cancer cells appear under a microscope.

"We anticipate that within five years, gene-based diagnoses will help physicians in determining which patients require more intensive therapies and which patients would benefit from careful monitoring, a process called 'watchful waiting,' said Dr. Tom Hudson, president and scientific director of Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, which is contributing $5 million in funding for the project.

"It is also expected that some prostate cancer mutations detected by CPC GENE will stimulate the development of new cancer drugs," he added in a release.

Dr. Robert Bristow, a senior scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute and a radiation oncologist at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital, will lead the prostate project, also known as CPC GENE.

It's hoped that patients' precise genetic information will help personalize their prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment to improve their quality of life, Bristow said. Researchers in the international genome project share those goals for all the cancers under study.

CPC GENE brings together researchers working in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Kingston and Montreal who will also work with international teams based in the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Prostate Cancer Canada will provide up to $15 million for the project.

About 25,000 Canadian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009. It ranks third in terms of mortality, with about 4,300 deaths a year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.