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Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in males, affecting some 40,000 British men per year. In Australia, 3,300 men die every year due to this disease. According to the researchers from the University of Manchester’s Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, knowing which type of prostate cancer a patient has is essential in ensuring that they receive proper treatment.

 The study, which was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, identified a new prognosis marker called protein β2-syntrophin for diagnosing prostate cancer. The researchers discovered that such protein is involved in establishing tight connections between cells, which are important in holding them together, maintaining the tissue structure, and preventing the spread of cancerous tumours in the body.

Dr Angeliki Malliri, the study lead author, from the Manchester’s Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, explains that biomarkers give doctors an indication of how well a patient will respond to a treatment. Biomarkers in prostate cancer are crucial in determining what type of cancer the patient has – low-risk or high risk. The low-risk type of cancer is one that doesn’t have any symptoms while the high-risk is one that necessitates treatment to prevent the spread of cancer cells. Knowing this helps the doctor decide what type of treatment is most suitable for the patient.

One of the co-authors, Dr Natalie Mack, explains that when β2-syntrophin is lost from cell-to-cell connections, the cells become disorganised. This is what happens in cells from prostate cancer samples, she said, potentially helping them to spread.

New Hope for Better Treatments

Their findings indicate that the loss of this protein in the prostate signals the progression of cancer. Also, patients with reduced levels of the β2-syntrophin in the cell-to-cell connections are more likely to have a recurrence of the disease after treatment.

According to the researchers, improved understanding of the prognosis markers is crucial in ensuring that patients receive the best treatment. They also recommend performing more studies to distinguish between low- and high-risk level diseases.

To treat prostate cancer more effectively, Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said that there has to be an understanding of how a disease develops and how to recognise its advanced forms. Their findings are another significant part of the puzzle that will soon be completed – picturing a better way to diagnose, treat and prevent prostate cancer.


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