The Identification of Genes Underlying Susceptibility to Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men other than skin cancers. Almost one man in ten will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime. Every year around 2900 men die of the disease, making prostate cancer the second largest cause of male cancer deaths, after lung cancer in Australia. The diagnosis of prostate cancer at an early stage is imperative for its successful management, however current methods of diagnosis and treatment have well-documented limitations.

It is well established that family history of disease is a strong risk factor for prostate cancer, indicating genes contribute to risk of this disease. Knowledge of the genes underlying the development of prostate cancer is important in understanding this disease and is likely to have wide ranging benefits through facilitating the development of new diagnostic tools, screening tests to identify those at risk, and the ability to better tailor available therapies. However, prostate cancer is a complex disease and it is likely there are many genes interacting with environmental factors to cause disease.

A proven approach, which goes some way to address the difficulties presented by complex diseases, is to study large families with multiple cases of disease. The Tasmanian population provides an ideal opportunity to utilise this approach. Over the past few years we have established the Tasmanian Familial Prostate Cancer Genetics Study with the overall objective to identify genes that predispose individuals to the development of prostate cancer. The genetic study of large families has proven to be a powerful approach to discovering the genes contributing to disease.

Identification of genetic regions associated with disease requires detailed genetic analysis of individuals from these large families. Many of the genes identified will contain a genetic alteration, or polymorphism that is associated with an increased risk of developing the cancer, however presence of this genetic alteration will not always result in disease.

There are likely to be a number of genetic alterations associated with increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Whilst these sorts of genetic changes are very difficult to identify, our ability to utilise large families means affected cases in that family are more likely to share a common inherited predisposing genetic alteration that contributes to their disease thus making the change easier to identify.

In this project we use classical genetic mapping, PCR, statistics, high-throughput genotyping, DNA sequencing, mutation detection, cell culture and microarrays.

This project is a participant based study

Research Groups

Related Diseases

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Team Members

External Collaborators

  • Dr Melanie Bahlo - Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
  • Professor Matthew Brown - University of Queensland
  • Dr Patrick Danoy - University of Queensland