Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center found in a genome-wide analysis of 13 men with metastatic prostate cancer that there were consistent epigenetic “signatures” or “marks” across all metastatic tumors in each of the subject men. The discovery contradicts the current belief that epigenetic marks that sit on the nuclear DNA of cancer cells and alter gene expression vary so much within each individual’s cancer that they have little or no value as targets for therapy or as biomarkers for treatment response and predicting disease severity.

Published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the study describes the genomic analysis of 13 men who died of advanced prostate cancer and whose tissue samples were collected after a rapid autopsy. The researchers sampled from three to six metastatic sites in each of the men and one to three samples of their normal tissue were also analyzed.

“Knowing both the genetic and epigenetic changes that happen in lethal prostate cancers can eventually help us identify the most aggressive cancers earlier and develop new therapies that target those changes,” says Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian, M.D., Ph.D., assi