Researchers from Florida State University (FL, USA) are working to find new techniques to analyze genetic data to potentially enable novel targeted treatments for prostate cancer. The findings of the study were published in the journal PLOS One.
Prostate cancer often has multiple tumor sites, which may be genetically distinct. In addition, tumor characteristics are known to differ among racial and ethnic groups.
The availability of genomic data has led to an increased drive towards personalized medicine and treatments specifically tailored to a patient’s tumor characteristics. However, large volumes of genetic data pose a challenge to scientists looking for genetic changes that affect cancer development, progression and treatment.
The researchers, led by Qing-Xiang Amy Sang (Florida State University), identified genetic alterations in prostate cancer by studying altered single pathways rather than looking at individual genes.
“Imagine trying to find a single altered gene among a haystack of more than 20,000 genes,” explained Jennifer Myers, graduate student and co-author of the study. “Now imagine doing this for the hundreds of thousands of men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. The task is daunting.”
Changes in gene expression are linked to altered pathways due to the fact that genes work in coordinated networks to produce their molecular effects.
“By looking for altered pathways, we’ve significantly increased the size of our target,” Myers explained.
The researchers hypothesized that genetic changes should converge at the pathway level, despite the variability of genetic profiles between patients.
The two main findings from the study included the alteration of the TGF-β signaling pathway and the regulation of the mitotic spindle formation pathway by the protein Ran in prostate cancer. The TGF-β pathway has been widely studied in prostate cancer, in contrast to the Ran/mitotic spindle pathway and the role of Ran overexpression in prostate cancer, which has been less extensively studied.
“The fact that we identified a well-studied pathway in prostate cancer gives us confidence in our method,” Myers commented. “Our next steps will be to confirm the significance of the Ran/mitotic spindle pathway in prostate cancer.”