Calculating genetic risk of prostate cancer could fast track diagnosis


A new study suggested that considering genetic risk for prostate cancer in men within primary care facilities could lead to more timely referrals and diagnoses for those at the highest risk for the cancer while avoiding invasive investigations for those with a low genetic risk.

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, was led by Sarah Bailey, PhD, senior research fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School, in England. It’s estimated that prostate cancer accounts for a quarter of new cancer cases in men in the United Kingdom and that 14 percent of deaths caused by the cancer could be prevented had there been an earlier diagnosis, according to the study. For this investigation, Bailey and a team of researchers sought to discover whether incorporating genetic risk into general practice could lead to more timely prostate cancer referrals and detection for those with the highest genetic risk for the disease.

Researchers used data from 6,390 white European men from the UK Biobank whose records indicated that they had seen a primary care physician concerning prostate cancer symptoms. To calculate the patients’ genetic risk, scientists combined more than 250 known genetic variants linked to prostate cancer and developed a “genetic risk score.”

The studies results suggested that the genetic risk score was accurate. Researchers found that prostate cancer incidence was 8.1 percent in the highest risk quintile and less than one percent in the lowest risk quintile.

“This is potentially an exciting new strategy for early cancer detection,” said Bailey “Not only can high risk patients be fast tracked, but those at low risk can safely avoid invasive investigations. ” Using this technique would align well to the [UK’s] NHS (National Health Service) Long Term Plan, which pledges to become the first national healthcare system to offer whole genome sequencing as part of routine care. This could be a clear example of improving early diagnosis, and therefore treatment and survival.”