The American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR) is in the midst of its annual scientific research meeting in Denver Colorado. As interesting prostate cancer specific information becomes available I will try and share the news.

One of the biggest concerns we face in prostate cancer is in deciding when a cancer needs to be treated. Current diagnostic tools; prostate-specific antigen (PSA), digital rectal examination (DRE) and biopsies are unable to differentiate between men who have aggressive tumors that could be fatal and men who have indolent tumors that might never become clinically significant. This is the very issue that has reared its ugly head and put into recent dispute the general concept of prostate cancer screening.

At the conference researchers, in a poster session, are reporting they have identified a new genetic variant which may be associated with aggressive prostate cancer, thus allowing them to differentiate men who may have aggressive tumors from those with more indolent tumors.

This genetic variant is detected from a blood sample, and it shows a man’s predisposition to aggressive prostate cancer, claimed lead author John Wittle, PhD, from the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of California at San Franciscoy.

It was found in a case–control study involving 947 men with aggressive prostate cancer and 534 controls, and is located on the KIAA1217 gene, which has recently been reported to be a novel target for repression of the androgen receptor.

Dr. Wittle reported that this is the first time this has been found, so it still needs validation. There are ther groups currently working to replicate this finding.

The group is now working on a prediction model, in which information on this genetic variant is added to the clinical data currently used, PSA levels, Gleason score, and tumor staging to see if it can improve accuracy in predicting prostate cancer future aggressiveness.

Because the marker identifies a predisposition for aggressive disease, it could also be useful in screening for prostate cancer, Dr. Wittle noted, because it would identify those who could benefit from more frequent screening.

This news is early, but can change the entire face of prostate cancer diagnosis.

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 100th Annual Meeting: Abstract 87. Presented on April 19, 2009.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW