The results of groundbreaking genetics research in Canada, funded by the Movember Foundation, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC), has identified a unique sub-type of prostate cancer that will help clinicians develop more personalized treatments for their patients, ensure that fewer men undergo unnecessary treatments and improve their chances of survival. The research has been published today in a paper, titled, Spatio-genomic heterogeneity and within localized, multi-focal prostate cancer in Nature Genetics.
Currently, tests that predict whether a patient’s cancer will progress or will respond to specific treatments are limited and existing tests can miss areas of aggressive prostate cancer meaning that men could be “under-staged” and given treatments which do not work appropriately for the severity of their specific disease. Researchers at the University Health Network and OICR identified for the first time, a new gene involved in prostate cancer, which, when mutated, leads to unique sub-type of prostate cancer that is associated with DNA damage and a more aggressive type of cancer. The researchers also demonstrated that a single man could have multiple, genetically distinct prostate cancers, and outlined how this variability would impact the delivery of personalized therapy for prostate cancer patients.
“This work is a wonderful example of what happens when a multi-disciplinary team of researchers applies cutting-edge technology to ask clinically-relevant questions,” said Dr Paul Boutros, a principal investigator at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, who co-led the research, “The discovery of a new oncogene in prostate cancer opens a brand-new field for researchers to try to understand prostate cancer biology and treatment. Meanwhile the characterization of the way mutations in prostate cancer vary spatially from one region of a tumour to another will facilitate the development and application of personalized therapies by helping researchers understand why new diagnostic tests fail.”
“The discoveries are a further step along the road to personalizing prostate cancer medicine,” said Dr Robert Bristow, a clinician-scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre who co-led the research with Dr. Boutros. “Our research shows how prostate cancers can vary from one man to another — despite the same pathology under the microscope — as well as how it can vary within one man who may have multiple tumour types in his prostate.”
“This is a significant development and one that will positively impact the treatment for many men around the world. As a strategic funder of men’s health programs, our prostate cancer goal is for men living with the disease to have the treatment and care needed to be physically and mentally well,” said Paul Villanti, Movember Foundation, Executive Director, Programs. “This piece of work is an important step in helping to achieve our goals in this space. This research demonstrates the considerable impact that Movember funds are having, the results of which have the potential to benefit hundreds of thousands of men and their families around the world.”
“A significant number of prostate cancer cases involve more than one type of cancer cell, and this is a discovery that will provide profound insights into the future of prostate cancer detection and treatment,” said Dr. Stuart Edmonds, Vice-President, Research, Health Promotion & Survivorship with Prostate Cancer Canada. “Breakthroughs such as this are a testament to the comprehensive work being done within the CPC-GENE Network, and Prostate Cancer Canada is proud to be a part of such a large-scale, cohesive collaboration.”
The study is part of a larger initiative called the Canadian Prostate Cancer Genome Network (CPC-GENE) that has brought together a team of multidisciplinary researchers from across Canada to crack the genetic code of prostate cancer. CPC-GENE researchers are identifying mutations in the DNA sequences of prostate cancer to develop better ways of detecting tumours, determining tumour aggressiveness and identifying the best treatment needed to personalize prostate cancer medicine for individual patients.
CPC-GENE is funded by the Movember Foundation with an investment of $15 million, the largest donation ever made by the Foundation to a single research project, PCC and OICR, which has contributed $5 million to the Network. This study was conducted with assistance from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.