Might beta-2-microglobulin be prognostic for aggessive prostate cancer?

Beta-2 -microglobulin (also known as β2-microglobulin or B2M) is a well-characterized protein that has been investigated for years because of its importance in the diagnosis and staging of patients with some types of blood cancer (lymphomas and multiple myeloma).

Back in 2007, Gross et al., based on laboratory studies, first suggested that B2M was an androgen-regulated and secreted protein that seemed to be elevated in the serum of prostate cancer patients (just like PSA normally is). Now, in a new study reported by Mink et al., the same research team  has shown that B2M expression may provide prognostic information in patients who receive surgical treatmenmt for prostate cancer.

Like all laboratory studies of this type, the early stage findings should only be looked at as representing the development of an hypothesis.There may be nothing clinically important to discover from this research — and even if there is, it could take years to turn into a meaningful test.

Basically, the researchers used tissue from radical prostatectomy specimens and laboratory techniques that could control the levels of B2M expression to investigate  the effects of B2M expression on androgen-dependent growth, transcriptional regulation, and androgen receptor recruitment in human prostate cancer cell lines. They were able to demonstrate that:

  • Variation in B2M expression is associated with characteristics of clinically aggressive prostate cancer (e.g., high Gleaons grade).
  • Significant down-regulation (“knockdown”) of B2M expression led to selective defects in androgen-dependent events including cell growth, gene regulation, and chromatin assembly.

The idea that B2M expression or activity might have some significant impact on the androgen signaling axis in patients with prostate cancer is interesting, and has potential future implications for the prognosis and ebven the treatmeent of prostate cancer (assuming that these new findings can be confirmed by others).

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