studies gene's role in prostate cancer
A gene that could be key to controlling
prostate cancer development and growth is being studied at the
U.Va. Health System.
Jin-Tang Dong, assistant professor of pathology, biochemistry
and molecular genetics, has received $1.35 million from the National
Cancer Institute to identify the gene and determine its role
over the next five years.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men in the
United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Most
prostate cancer, however, is latent and does not become a problem
during a manšs lifetime. A major challenge for urologists is how
to distinguish the prostate cancers that are benign and can be
left without treatment from those that are life-threatening and
need immediate treatment.
research is targeting this important subject. Scientists know
that gene mutations contribute to cancer development. In cancer
cells, some genes are switched "on," or activated, and
can cause tumor growth. Other genes -- called tumor suppressor
genes -- are turned "off," or inactivated. The gene
Dong is studying appears to suppress tumor growth when active.
In collaboration with Dr. Henry Frierson Jr., U.Va. professor
of pathology, Dong will analyze prostate tumor cells from patients
who have undergone surgery to remove prostate tumors. Some of
these tumor cells appear to have lost the gene that suppresses
the new funding, Dong's team will identify the precise location
of the gene, which they know occupies a relatively small stretch
of human DNA. They then will analyze its molecular structure and
functions in both normal and cancer cells.
"It seems a subset of prostate tumors become malignant when
the gene becomes inactive," Dong said. "We hope that
someday physicians will be able to analyze this gene to diagnose
malignant prostate cancers, and restore its ability to suppress