Prostate cancer deaths double in men with BRCA2

Cancer Research UK

Men with prostate cancer caused by a faulty BRCA2 gene are more than twice as likely to die from the disease than those carrying the faulty BRCA1 gene - reveals a study published in the British Journal of Cancer* today (Tuesday).

These findings could help tailor treatment and target chemotherapy more effectively to men with prostate cancer that is caused by a BRCA gene fault.

Carriers of the BRCA2 gene were found to live for an average of four years following a diagnosis of the disease, compared to an average of eight years in men carrying the BRCA1 gene.

Lead researcher, Dr Steven Narod, based at the University of Toronto in Canada, said: "We know that carrying a faulty BRCA2 gene increases a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer, and our study shows that it also affects how long he will survive a diagnosis of the disease.

"This information is important because it shows that men with BRCA2 are not responding as well to current therapies, so we hope these findings could help doctors more effectively tailor treatment to this group."

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Around 35,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the UK and around 10,000 men die from the disease each year. Around one in every 500 men carry the BRCA2 gene.

The lifetime risk for developing prostate cancer is one in 14 for men in the UK. Previous studies have shown that men with a faulty BRCA2 gene can be up to five times more likely to develop prostate cancer than the general population.

Dr Narod continued: "The results of our study are very exciting - if this link is confirmed in further clinical trials, it could help doctors develop new treatment methods for prostate cancer patients with a faulty BRCA2 gene."

A greater understanding of who is most at risk and most likely to die from prostate cancer could also lead to targeted screening for men with a family history.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Although only a very small percentage of men with prostate cancer will carry a faulty BRCA2 gene, they're much more likely to die from the disease. It's important that more research is done in this area to ensure that this group is targeted effectively so cancer is picked up at an early stage and, more importantly, that they are given the most appropriate treatment.

"Men with a strong family history of prostate or breast cancer can visit their GP for advice."

ENDS

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Notes to Editor

* Rapid progression of prostate cancer in men with a BRCA2 mutation. Narod et al. British Journal of Cancer. May 2008.

The average prostate cancer survivor in the UK is expected to live for 12 years.

Find out more about prostate cancer risks and causes, including how a family history of prostate or breast cancer can increase your risk of the disease on CancerHelp UK.

Anyone affected by cancer can contact Cancer Research UK's cancer information nurses on 0808 800 4040 (freephone) or visit the charity's patient information website CancerHelp UK.

About the British Journal of Cancer (BJC)

The BJC's mission is to encourage communication of the very best cancer research from laboratories and clinics in all countries. Broad coverage, its editorial independence and consistent high standards have made BJC one of the world's premier general cancer journals. The BJC is owned by the charity Cancer Research UK.

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