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Gene expression signatures, immune response, and prostate cancer prognosis

Posted Jul 08 2010 12:00am

A collaborative study from investigators at several major cancer research centers has suggested that “gene expression signatures implicating specific components of the immune response” may provide better prognostic information for patients with prostate cancer than currently available data such as stage and grade.

The paper by Hsu et al. refers to data on several cancers including adenocarcinoma of the prostate. The authors focused their research on the expression of genes believed to be important in the development and expression of host immune responses, e.g., T(H1)-mediated adaptive immunity, inflammation, and immune suppression.

Among the adenocarcinomas – which include prostate cancer the T(H1)-mediated adaptive immunity genes were consistently associated with better prognosis, while genes associated with inflammation and immune suppression were sometimes associated with outcome but with variable degree. In the case of prostate cancer (based on data from 79 patient specimens), increased expression of the T(H1)-mediated adaptive immunity genes was significantly associated with good prognosis in all patients (p = 0.03, hazard ratio = 0.36).

As usual, we should note that this is early-stage research, and that an “association” is not necessarily the same as a cause and an effect, but the idea that the strength of an individual’s immune system may be important in his (or her) ability to fight off cancer just as it fights off other forms of disease is hardly a new one, and it is certainly reasonable to suppose that “the gene expression signatures implicating specific components of the immune response hold prognostic import across solid tumors,” as the authors conclude.

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