August 23, 2012

Gene linked to familial prostate cancer

A rare, inherited mutation confers an eightfold increased risk of prostate cancer, a recent study shows.


Family history is the best predictor of risk for prostate cancer, suggesting that the disease has a strong hereditary component. Recently, a heritable mutation in the HOXB13 gene was found to predispose men of European descent to prostate cancer.

Jeffrey Smith, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, and colleagues initiated a study of familial prostate cancer at Vanderbilt University to independently confirm the role of this mutation. The team assessed this mutation in 928 prostate cancer patients with close relatives with the disease and 930 men without a personal or family history of prostate cancer.

They found that the mutation is relatively rare, but carries an eightfold increased risk of prostate cancer among those who inherit it. The markedly increased risk distinguishes it from all previously known genetic risk factors in prostate cancer. The mutation was most commonly observed in families with three or more affected men.

The results reported in the August Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention confirms that the HOXB13 mutation confers an increased risk of prostate cancer in men of European descent.

The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the V Foundation.