Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) report in the February issue of Nature Genetics that inactivation of just one copy of a gene called PTEN and both copies of a gene called p27 leads to prostate cancer in mice 100 percent of the time. Mutations in the PTEN gene are frequently found in human prostate cancer. And, for the first time, scientists now have a mouse model for prostate cancer in which the tumors have the same features as prostate tumors in humans. According to the study's lead author, Pier Paolo Pandolfi, M.D., Ph.D., Head of the Molecular and Developmental Biology Laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, having this model will lead to better methods for testing potential new drugs to fight the disease.
These mutations provide insight into genetic variations that may lead to more severe forms of prostate cancer in humans. MSKCC researchers had previously found that loss of the p27 protein in men led to a higher rate of recurrence for prostate cancer and a poorer long-term survival. The new finding may allow doctors to eventually refine their diagnosis and treatment of tumor types in men.
However, further research is needed to determine if these gene mutations affect humans in the same way they affect mice. In addition, testing for these gene mutations is not readily available at this time. Prostate cancer experts stress the importance of clinical trials in future research.