What does the report from Edinburgh scientists stating that they have discovered a single new gene involved in prostate cancer, called Decorin, mean? The immediate implications of there being another way to differentiate between normal prostate tissue and tumour include:
- Identification of cancerous tumour is usually the first step to exploring targeted treatments.
- The potential of an improved diagnostic test for prostate cancer. This is fundamental because the implications of a bad diagnosis (either way) are severe.
Due to other conditions such as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), prostate cancer remains one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose, and the lab tests remain inaccurate. The test that is most associated with the prostate is Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), which although specific for the prostate is not specific for prostate cancer; relative levels are required and these need to be placed in the context of other factors before a tentative diagnosis can be given. To illustrate the difficulty, a good ride on a bicycle is sufficient to raise PSA levels in most men.
The latest reports state that Decorin is involved in suppressing cancer and therefore levels are higher in normal tissue. Following the usual scientific approach, if these early findings are consistent, this is good news for men because a decent test might at last be in sight. However, there is still a long way to go before a reliable and simple test can be made widely available.