Genomic profiling of prostate cancer


The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink has been made aware of an interesting new initiative under development at The Broad Institute up in Boston.The new project is known simply as The Prostate Cancer Project and it will probably be another couple of months before full details of how it will operate can be made available. However, the basic idea is that the research team wants to be able to carry out genetic and genomic profiling studies on several thousand men with prostate cancer and then  correlate all those data to other available information about their prostate cancer over time to see whether:

  • We can gain better insights into the progression of prostate cancer over time
  • We can correlate genetic and genomic data to the way men respond to specific types of treatment
  • There are highly definable relationships between genetic and genomic data and the classification of men as low, intermediate, and high risk
  • These types of genomic data can be used to better predict how men will respond to specific types of drug therapy

and a whole bunch of other possibilities.

What is going to be different about this project is that it will start out by simply collecting information and a saliva sample directly from prostate cancer patients, who will also be asked to fill out some forms about their cancer, inclusive of contact information for themselves and their physicians. Selected patients will then also be sent a “blood draw” kit so that they can provide a blood sample for analysis of their circulating DNA (cDNA)

However, patients who are willing to participate in this research project do need to understand that it will not necessarily be able to help them to understand how to manage their own prostate cancer in the short term, and it is not designed with that intent in mind. In  other words, the project is not going to be giving individual patients the genetic information you would get about yourself from 23&Me or Ancestry, or if you had a genomic analysis conducted on one of your tissue samples by a company like Foundation Medicine. All data collected as part of the Prostate Cancer Project will be anonymized to the researchers and will be used only for large scale data analysis.

The goal is to be able to find areas of commonality between groups of men who can then be classified with high genetic and genomic accuracy according to the ways that their prostate cancers can be characterized and how they have responded to differing types of treatment. You can think about this as a more sophisticated way to categorize men into risk groups over time. It is more likely to be able to help your sons and grandsons than the current readers of this column.

Initially, full enrollment in this project will be limited to patients who live in the USA, and who probably have either metastatic or very high risk forms of prostate cancer. However, the intent is to expand the spectrum of patients who can enroll in this project as the project evolves.

What any patient who is interested can already do is sign up to start receiving information about the project as soon as it kicks off. You can click here to see some preliminary information about the project that was presented at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium earlier this year. And you can also click here to sign up to receive additional information as the project evolves.

The reasons that The Broad Institute believes that they will be able to carry out this project efficiently and rapidly are twofold:

  • In the first place, they are already doing analogous projects related to metastatic breast cancer (see here) and a rare form of cancer known as angiosarcoma (see here).
  • In the second place, The Broad Institute has one of the largest sets of genomic/genetic sequencing machines in the world, which allows them to carry out this type of analysis with very high speed and efficiency.

The Broad Institute is affiliated with Harvard University, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

We expect to keep you fully formed about this project as it evolves.

One Response

  1. What would really interest myself would be the inclusion of a set of low-risk patients. What set of abnormalities say it is very safe to go on AS?

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