The presence of a protein can be used to predict survival from prostate cancer at diagnosis, a study has found.
Research by pathologists at the Liverpool University found men testing positive for heat shock protein-27 were nearly twice as likely to die from cancer than those who did not.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer, suggest the protein could be used to distinguish men with aggressive forms of cancer needing immediate treatment from those with slow-growing forms. At present there are no reliable tests.
Lead author Chris Foster, a Cancer Research UK-funded scientist at Liverpool’s school of cancer studies, said: “Our study shows that this protein marker - currently found in tissue samples - can give us a reliable and accurate indication of whether individual cancers will become aggressive.
“Currently, we are working on developing this finding into a blood test to monitor men with prostate cancer in order to determine when their individual disease needs treatment.”
The protein is a component of signalling pathways that control the movement of cells around the body. The study also suggests new drugs could be developed to block these signals and halt the spread of prostate cancer cells.
Professor Foster said: “If further research shows that blocking these cell message systems is successful, it could provide a new treatment for aggressive forms of prostate cancer.” The research looked at tissue samples from 553 men at diagnosis and involved a 15-year follow-up.
The Prostate Cancer Charity chief executive John Neate said: “It is critically important to develop a test for prostate cancer which is able to distinguish reliably between aggressive and slow growing forms of the disease.
“This would enable radical treatment to be focused only on men with aggressive disease, allowing men with low risk disease to feel confident that they can safely live with their cancer, without the need for radical treatment and its significant side effects.”