What does the report from Edinburgh scientists stating that they have discovered a single new geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. involved in prostateA gland that surrounds the urethra near the bladder. It produces a fluid that forms part of the semen.cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., called Decorin, mean? The immediate implications of there being another way to differentiateThe specialisation of cells or tissues for a specific function. between normal prostate tissueA group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. and tumourAn abnormal swelling. include:
Due to other conditions such as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPHAn abbreviation for benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is enlargement of the prostate that may cause difficulty in passing urine.), prostate cancer remains one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose, and the lab tests remain inaccurate. The test that is most associated with the prostate is Prostate Specific Antigen (PSAAn abbreviation for prostate-specific antigen, an enzyme that is produced by the prostate. High levels are present in the blood when the prostate gland is enlarged or inflamed.), which although specific for the prostate is not specific for prostate cancer; relative levels are required and these need to be placed in the context of other factors before a tentative diagnosis can be given. To illustrate the difficulty, a good ride on a bicycle is sufficient to raise PSA levels in most men.
The latest reports state that Decorin is involved in suppressing cancer and therefore levels are higher in normal tissue. Following the usual scientific approach, if these early findings are consistent, this is good news for men because a decent test might at last be in sight. However, there is still a long way to go before a reliable and simple test can be made widely available.