A recent study in Iceland compared survival and disease progression in prostate cancer patients with the Icelandic BRCA2 999del5 founder mutation and those without the mutation.

The study evaluated a pool of men with prostate cancer who were related to women who had breast cancer. They found that the gene mutation, BRCA2 999del5 founder mutation, was present in 30 patients (5.7%) of the men in the pool. The mutation’s carriers were younger at the time of diagnosis and had more advanced staged cancer, higher-grade tumors, and shorter median survival time (2.1 years vs. 12.4 years) compared with the noncarriers.

The authors went on to say, “it is of great importance to study whether these results can be confirmed for carriers of mutations at other locations within the BRCA2 gene. Finally, the results indicate that in the search for new methods to predict prostate cancer progression, it may be fruitful to look for gene or protein expression patterns in prostate cancers resembling the patterns seen in BRCA2 mutation carriers.”

This study calls for additional research into prostate cancer at the genetic level. If we confirm that BRCA2 mutations alter disease progression we might better be able to decide on when treatment should be done and on how aggressive the treatment needs to be. An understanding of the effect of genetic mutations might allow us to predict eventual disease outcomes.

Article: Tryggvadóttir L, Vidarsdóttir L, Thorgeirsson T, Jonasson JG, et al. Prostate Cancer Progression and Survival in BRCA2 Mutation Carriers. J Natl Cancer Inst 2007; 99: 929-935

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW