Helping Tell the Good Cancers From the Bad
As their name suggests, certain proteins called Cancer/Testis Antigens (CTA s) are made in the testicles; they’re also expressed in several types of cancer, including prostate cancer. “CTA s are particularly interesting,” says Research Director Robert H. Getzenberg, Ph.D., “because they are expressed in different ways at various stages in a given cancer. This means that they have the potential to be biomarkers for diagnosing a cancer, as well as helping to predict how aggressive it will be.”
“ We believe that these differing
patterns make a gene signature
that may help in prostate cancer
prognosis and early detection
of advanced disease.”
Fortunately, with the use of PSA testing and screening for prostate cancer, most men are diagnosed when their cancer is at a curable stage, and their cancer is considered “good,” adds Getzenberg, the Donald S. Coffey Professor of Urology. Even so, in some men, cancer returns, and “there is no good way of predicting who is at risk of disease recurrence.” Getzenberg and colleagues recently completed a systematic analysis of CTA expression in prostate cancer, and have identified several CTA s that are “stagespecific;” in other words, some are made by cancer that is confined within the prostate, and others are highly specific to advanced disease that has spread to distant locations.
“We believe that these differing patterns make a gene signature that may help in prostate cancer prognosis and early detection of advanced disease.” Getzenberg and colleagues have developed a highly specific and quantitative assay for this gene signature, and are working to determine its ability to tell the good cancers from the bad.