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Doctors Can Now Predict Recurrence of Cancer Tumor

Update Date: Aug 28, 2012 05:35 AM EDT

In a study aimed at understanding the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells, Johns Hopkins urologists have discovered that the reduction of a specific protein acts as an indicator to an increased risk of cancer recurrence. 

The researchers, for the study, focused on a gene called SPARCL1, which is thought to play a vital role in cell migration during the development of prostate in the embryo and apparently becomes active again during cancer progression, Medical Xpress reports. 

Usually, both benign and malignant prostate cancer cells express high levels of SPARCL1, and there is an apparent reduction of these levels when the cells want to migrate. According to researchers, this reduction or 'down regulation' of SPARCL1 is related to the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. 

"Our findings should allow physicians to not only pinpoint those patients whose cancers are destined to return after surgery, but could also reveal a potential new option for treatment," says Edward Schaeffer, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the Johns Hopkins Prostate Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic. 

According to Schaeffer and lead investigator Paula Hurley, Ph.D., another revelation of the study is that SPARCL1 could also predict tumor recurrence in a number of other diseases including bladder, breast, colon, rectum, tongue, lung, skin and ovarian cancers.

Scietists are currently working on breaking down the specific mechanism with which the gene is controlled so that they can develop a treatment that could reset SPARCL1 to normal levels and perhaps prevent the recurrence of the cancer.

 "While many of our patients are initially cured with surgery, some inexplicably have their cancers return," says Schaeffer. "We are working to identify patients at higher risk of recurrence and our ultimate goal is to develop new treatments that would prevent the return of the cancer."

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America and affects 1 in 6 men, according to Prostate Cancer Foundation. 

The risk of contracting the disease is known to increase with age, with more than 65% of all prostate cancers diagnosed in men over the age of 65.

The findings are reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Aug. 27, 2012.

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