Guilt by association: Scientists nab suspects in prostate cancer

December 27, 1999

Doctors don't enjoy prostate exams any more than patients do, but they perform them for two good reasons. First, prostate cancer kills 40,000 American men annually, and second, blood tests for the disease are imperfect, diagnosing positive in some healthy men and missing genuine cancer in others. In the December issue of Genome Research, Michael Walker (Incyte Pharmaceuticals and Stanford University), Tod Klinger (Incyte), and colleagues take a step towards better diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer with the identification of new disease-associated genes.

In the standard blood test for prostate cancer, doctors look for high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), an enzyme produced in the prostate and one of several genes associated with the disease. Although the biology of prostate cancer is poorly understood, Walker and colleagues reasoned that genes mimicking the activity of PSA and other prostate cancer genes would themselves be likely culprits in the disease. Following the trail, the researchers used a statistical method called guilt-by-association to comb gene "libraries" for suspects activating in conjunction with known prostate cancer genes. This method identified eight previously unknown genes associated with prostate cancer, a result that should spur development of better diagnostic exams for doctors and patients alike.
Contact (author):

Michael Walker
Incyte Pharmaceuticals
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Fax: 650-855-0572

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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