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Common Gene Increases Prostate Cancer Risk

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December 27, 2005

CHICAGO --- A common, inherited gene that predisposes one in eight people to development of certain forms of cancer, including breast, colon and ovarian cancers, has been found by Northwestern University researchers to also increase prostate cancer risk -- by 200 percent.

Boris Pasche, M.D., and colleagues at The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University have been screening for the gene, TGFBR1*6A, in individuals with a personal and family history of breast and ovarian cancers and in colon cancer.

Based on the recent findings in prostate cancer, the TGFBR1*6A cancer susceptibility gene study at Northwestern has been amended to include patients with a family history of prostate cancer.

Pasche is assistant professor of medicine, division of hematology/oncology, at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital and director of the cancer genetics program at the Cancer Center.

Pasche’s previous research showed that carriers of the TGFBR1*6A gene have a 38 percent higher risk for breast cancer, a 20 percent higher risk for colon cancer and a 41 percent higher risk for ovarian cancer.

Pasche also demonstrated that people with two copies of the gene (homozygotes) have a cancer risk that is twice as high as that in individuals with one copy of the gene (heterozygotes).

For example, women who carry two copies of the TGFBR1*6A gene have a 169 percent increased risk for breast cancer and women who carry one copy of the gene have a 23 percent increased risk for breast cancer.

Pasche’s co-researchers on the genetic screening study are Virginia Kaklamani, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, and Taya Fallen, a genetic counselor with the cancer genetics program.

The TGFBR1*6A studies at Northwestern are open to men and women and especially siblings, parents and adult children (over 18 years) of individuals with a diagnosis of breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer.

Study participants will be asked to provide a blood sample and will be contacted for a medical history and follow-up.

For information, call the cancer genetics program at (312) 695-0320.