An international team of researchers, led by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, are planning to trial a novel saliva-based DNA test designed to predict men at risk of developing prostate cancer.
The move follows findings of a study - published in the journal Nature Genetics - involving more than 140,000 men that identified 63 new genetic variations in the DNA code that increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Taken together with more than 100 genetic mutations previously linked to the development of the disease, the researchers have devised a new test designed to predict which men were most at risk of developing it during their lifetime.
According to the researchers, the test identifies 1 percent of men who are at highest risk because they carry several of these genetic variants, and as such are nearly six times more likely to develop prostate cancer than the population average.
Scientists at ICR are now are planning a trial of the DNA test on saliva samples taken in GP practices, to assess whether advice or preventative treatment could reduce cases of prostate cancer among those men found to have the highest inherited risk.
“If we can tell from testing DNA how likely it is that a man will develop prostate cancer, the next step is to see if we can use that information to help prevent the disease,” said Professor Ros Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at The ICR.
“We now hope to begin a small study in GP practices to establish whether genetic testing using a simple spit test could select high-risk men who might benefit from interventions to identify the disease earlier or even reduce their risk.”
“This new research could help men to understand their individual genetic risk of prostate cancer, which could prompt them to speak to their GP about the disease,” Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, told the media.
“Given that one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, we urgently need more accurate diagnostic tests which are suitable for use in a nationwide screening programme.”
Earlier this year, Prostate Cancer UK released data showing that the number of men dying from prostate cancer has overtaken the number of women dying from breast cancer for the first time, with the disease now the UK’s third biggest cancer killer.
According to the data, 11,819 men now die from prostate cancer every year in the UK - the equivalent of one man every 45 minutes. This compares to 11,442 women who die from breast cancer.
In April, Prime Minister Theresa May announced an investment of £75 million into research targeting earlier diagnosis and better treatment for men with the disease.