According to a paper published recently in PLoS One, yet another gene (this one is known as “Decorin”) may have some degree of impact on risk for the development of prostate cancer tumors in individual men.
Henke et al. report that the gene known as Decorin or Dcn appears to be expressed at a significantly reduced level in prostate cancer stroma as compared to the level of its expression in non-cancerous prostate stroma. (The term “stroma” refers to the connective, functionally supportive framework of a biological cell, tissue, or organ in animals, e.g., men and women.) In other words, it may be possible, by measuring levels of expression of Decorin, to better assess risk for prostate cancer. It may also be possible, by stimulating expression of Decorin, to better treat some types of prostate cancer. A commentary on this article also appeared on a regional BBC News web site.
As regular readers of this blog will be well aware by now, studies into the isolation, identification, and differential expression of specific genes associated with prostate cancer (and many other clinical disorders) is now a huge research enterprise. In the cases of some diseases, we do indeed know that the expression or non-expression of a single gene is, in fact, the defining characteristic of that disorder. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that no single gene is responsible for the development of prostate cancer in the vast majority of cases.
Quoted on the BBC News web site, Kate Holmes of Prostate Cancer UK stated that:
This type of early stage research is vital to help us improve our understanding of prostate cancer development and move towards finding better ways to diagnose and treat the disease.
She is 100 percent correct in this statement, but it would be wishful thinking to believe — based on what we know today — that any one gene or product of expression of a single gene is going to be found that will be able to define risk for prostate cancer on its own. Prostate cancer is a complex disease involving the stimulus and interaction of many different cells and cell types. The ability to better diagnose and treat what we now believe to be multiple different forms of even adenocarcinoma of the prostate (the single largest category of prostate cancers) is going to require a greater understanding of how all of these systems interact.