Gene fusion identified in prostate cancer

Using a novel bioinformatics approach, researchers identified a gene fusion that seems to occur in a majority of prostate cancers.

By | November 21, 2005

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© 2005 AAAS

Using a novel bioinformatics approach, researchers identified a gene fusion that seems to occur in a majority of prostate cancers. A common feature of blood cancers, such fusions are rare in solid tumors. A team led by Arul Chinnaiyan at the University of Michigan Medical School found that in 23 of 29 prostate cancer samples, the regulatory region of the TMPRSS2 gene is fused to a gene encoding an ETS transcription factor, causing overexpression of the factor and, in turn, cancerous growth.1

Chinnaiyan's lab had applied cancer outlier profile analysis (COPA) to a subset of microarray data in Oncomine, the group's public database of human cancer gene-expression data. They identified genes with an unusually high degree of overexpression in prostate cancer.

They focused on two genes, ERG and ETV1, which both code for ETS family transcription factors involved in oncogenic translocations in both Ewing sarcoma and myeloid leukemia. For more than 90% of the prostate tumors that overexpress one of these genes, the gene in question is fused to the upstream untranslated region of TMPRSS2, the androgen-regulated protease gene primarily found in prostate tissue.

This work "raises the question as to what other solid tumors also have translocation [of these genes]," says Janet Rowley at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Chinnaiyan says he plans to look for causative gene rearrangements in other solid tumors.

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