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Prostate cancer advance promises better diagnosis, treatment

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A prostate cancer awareness ribbon istockphoto

(CBS) New discoveries about the interplay of genes that underlie prostate cancer could lead to a simple blood test that identifies men who have an aggressive form of the disease.

And the scientists behind the breakthrough resarch - a team working at New York's Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory - say they've identified a gene that is a "druggable target," meaning it should be possible to create powerful new medicines to stop aggressive tumors from spreading.

The research was described in the August 16 issue of Cancer Cell.

Each year in the U.S., about 250,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with prostate cancer. But only about 1 percent of them have an aggressive and potentially lethal form of the disease, according to a written statement issued by the lab.

Because there's no foolproof method of telling aggressive from slow-growing prostate tumors, it's sometimes hard for doctors to determine the best course of treatment.

But if the scientists are right about their new insights as to how genes with tongue-twisting names like PHLPP1, PTEN, and AKT "switch on" aggressive cancer growth, doctors and their patients may have an easier time.

The idea would be to test prostate cancer patients soon after diagnosis.

"The ideal scenario is to be able to detect what we are looking for by taking blood samples, although that may prove to be too late," study leader Dr. Lloyd Trotman, an assistant professor at the lab, told the Independent." It might be better to pick up metastatic tumours by taking small biopsies from the prostate gland."

The Prostate Cancer Foundation has more on prostate cancer.

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