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Genetic Marker Linked to Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Northwestern University researchers have discovered that a recently identified genetic marker for prostate cancer is linked to a highly aggressive form of the disease.

These findings ultimately will aid the development of a simple blood test to predict who is susceptible to this aggressive cancer, Northwestern researchers said. Knowing which patients carry this genetic marker also will guide doctors in how they treat the cancer.

The Northwestern study showed a strong hereditary component to this aggressive cancer. Prostate cancer patients who carry the genetic marker called 8q24 - are much more likely to have a close family member with the disease. They have a 40 percent chance of having a close family member with prostate cancer. In contrast, prostate cancer patients who do not carry the marker have a 20 percent chance.

The genetic marker is twice as common in African-American men. At least 30 percent of African-American men with prostate cancer carry the genetic marker compared to 15 percent of men of European descent, according to a previous study involving Northwestern.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, causing more than 40,000 deaths annually. African-American men have a higher incidence of the disease and get it at a younger age than white men.

These findings will help us understand the mechanisms underlying prostate cancer, said Brian Helfand, M.D., an assistant research professor of urology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, a co-principal investigator of the study and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. They hold great promise for the development of new treatments and prevention.

Helfand is presenting his findings Sunday, May 20, at the American Urological Association meeting in Anaheim, California.

The study looked at more than 550 prostate cancer patients who had been treated at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehe
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