At least one in 23 South African men will develop prostate cancer within their lifetime, a new study has found.
Researchers have mapped the entire genome of a prostate cancer tumour for the first time in this new study, a collaboration by researchers from the University of Pretoria (UP), the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney in Australia. The findings could help characterise an individual’s prostate tumour and direct clinical treatment.
In the West, prostate cancer has the highest incidence rate of all male-associated cancers and the second highest mortality rate. In Africa, the incidence of this type of cancer among non-migrant Africans is uncertain, but a trend towards earlier age at diagnosis has been observed.
Professor Vanessa Hayes, head of the Human Comparative and Prostate Cancer Genomics Laboratory at the Garvan Institute, said very little is understood about what drives these tumours, despite the fact that prostate cancer has been researched for a number of years.
Riana Bornman, senior research professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UP and one of the co-authors of this paper, has been involved with prostate cancer research, specifically among African men, for many years and has been collaborating with Hayes since 2008.
The researchers used next-generation mapping technology, in combination with whole genome sequencing, to uncover the most complete picture of the prostate cancer genomic landscape to date.
They studied a prostate tumour from a South African man with a Gleason score of 7, the most commonly diagnosed form of prostate cancer, which is clinically highly unpredictable, and eventually identified 85 large structural rearrangements with over a third of these directly impacting genes with known cancer-promoting potential.
Hayes said one of the biggest challenges is distinguishing which patients’ cancers are going to become life-threatening. To determine this it is vital to understand the genetic drivers of each individual tumour.