How Do Fusion Genes Promote Prostate Cancer?

Among the many mysteries surrounding prostate cancer has been one involving fusion genes in prostate cancer cells that has a role in promoting cancer growth, but no one has known how it works. Now researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have discovered a gene mutation in these cells and how it works to turn abnormal cell growth on and off.

Cancer  is, by definition, a disease caused by the uncontrolled reproduction and division of abnormal cells in one or more parts of the body. Therefore, one goal of cancer research is to find ways to stop this uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. Much of the research in this area has focused on prostate cancer, genetics, and lifestyle, as well as the role of genes and an increase in prostate cancer risk.

Scientists now have some clues concerning cancer growth with the discovery that the mutation of the fusion gene, which appears in up to 50% of all prostate cancer cells, is formed in a way that it can turn the switch on thousands of genes and promote uncontrolled growth.

According to Dr. Mark A. Rubin, The Homer T. Hirst Professor of Oncology in Pathology and vice chair for experimental pathology at Weill Cornell Medical College, “This is likely a phenomenon that occurs in many types of cancers when oncogenic fusion genes are over-expressed.”

In other words, the mutated fusion gene is probably involved in turning on a lot of prostate cancer. But the good news is, this discovery could allow scientists to develop a way to turn the switches off. As Dr. Rubin noted, “This discovery could hold a lot of promise for cancer therapy.”

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.