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Prostate cancer: Experts find five distinctive types... and can now identify the most dangerous

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 01/08/2015

Scientists have discovered five distinct types of prostate cancer - the most common cancer among men in Northern Ireland. Picture posed
Scientists have discovered five distinct types of prostate cancer - the most common cancer among men in Northern Ireland. Picture posed

Scientists have discovered five distinct types of prostate cancer - the most common cancer among men in Northern Ireland.

And experts at Cancer Research UK have found a way to distinguish between the different types, according to a landmark study.

The findings could have important implications for how doctors treat prostate cancer in the future, by identifying tumours that are more likely to grow and spread aggressively through the body.

The research may allow doctors to better identify slow and fast-growing types and this could open up the path to more tailored cancer treatments.

Until now, there has been no reliable way to know which patients have the more aggressive cancers requiring the most urgent and intensive therapy.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with around 41,700 cases diagnosed every year.

There are around 1,039 cases diagnosed in Northern Ireland every year and it leads to 200 deaths.

The researchers, from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and Addenbrooke's Hospital, studied samples of healthy and cancerous prostate tissue from more than 250 men.

By examining the DNA it showed the disease can be split into five main types.

Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way.

It often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems.

Some men have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread. This needs treatment to stop it spreading outside the prostate.

Further research is needed.However, Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK's prostate cancer expert, said: "The challenge in treating prostate cancer is that it can either behave like a pussycat - growing slowly and unlikely to cause problems in a man's lifetime - or it can behave like a tiger - spreading aggressively and requiring urgent treatment.

"But at the moment we have no reliable way to distinguish them. This could mean more effective treatment, helping save more lives and improving the quality of life for thousands."

Mr Mason described the study as potentially "game-changing" and could help experts choose more suitable treatment for men with aggressive cancers.

"This could mean more effective treatment, helping save more lives and improve the quality of life for thousands," he said.

Dr Iain Frame of Prostate Cancer UK, said: "For men to truly benefit from these findings it is now vital that the research community comes together to confirm the most efficient methods for testing for different types of prostate cancer that can be bought to the clinic."

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