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UCI-led research team discovers a molecular feature in prostate cancer with prognostic value, distinguishes ancestral differences

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UCI School of Medicine
Farahnaz Rahmatpanah, PhD, assistant professor in residence, UCI School of Medicine Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and senior author on a new study about a molecular feature in prostate cancer, called endogenous retroviral RNA that is found to have prognostic value and distinguishes differences between men of African and European or Middle Eastern ancestry.

Expression signatures may be useful for assessing greatest risk of progression in prostate and other cancers

Irvine, Calif., Jan. 11, 2022 — A molecular feature in prostate cancer, called endogenous retroviral (ERV) RNA, has been found to have prognostic value and also distinguish differences between men of African and European or Middle Eastern ancestry, according to a study led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine. The team also identified ERV expression signatures that may be useful for identifying prostate cancer patients at greatest risk of progression regardless of ancestry, which may also extend to progression in other cancers.

Findings from the study, “Expression of Endogenous Retroviral RNA in Prostate Tumors has Prognostic Value and Shows Differences among Americans of African Versus European/Middle Eastern Ancestry,” were recently published in the online journal Cancers.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the U.S. and affects millions of men worldwide, but there are disparities in its aggressiveness between different ancestries. There is a higher burden among Black American men compared to White American men. Black American patients are diagnosed at an earlier age and at a more advanced stage than White American patients and being Black is an independent predictor of disease relapse in those undergoing radical prostatectomy.

“Measuring ERV expression may have the potential to help physicians predict which patients would most benefit from active surveillance or radical therapy, and they also have the potential to be useful in clinically relevant prognostic models for other cancers,” said Farahnaz Rahmatpanah, PhD, assistant professor in residency in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the UCI School of Medicine. “We also believe that in the future, experiments to knock out or overexpress ERVs in cells and tissue culture may further advance our understanding of the consequences of differential regulation of ERVs among people of different geographical ancestry.”

To better understand the biological basis for disparities, the team investigated two potential roles for ERVs in prostate cancer. They discovered differences in ERV expression among prostate tumors which may be associated with variations in the mechanism of progression between patients of primarily African versus primarily European or Middle Eastern ancestry and determined the pathways where these genes have important functions.

A biochemical recurrence risk-prediction model was developed using clinical data and ERV transcripts, which outperformed prediction models based on clinical data alone. The ERV expression signatures that correlated with biochemical relapse among prostate cancer patients of all ancestries were revealed, indicating that ERVs may be useful for identifying patients at greatest risk of progression and that the utility of ERV expression for studying prostate cancer progression may extend to other cancers.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

About the UCI School of Medicine

Each year, the UCI School of Medicine educates more than 400 medical students, and nearly 150 doctoral and master’s students. More than 700 residents and fellows are trained at UCI Medical Center and affiliated institutions. The School of Medicine offers an MD; a dual MD/PhD medical scientist training program; and PhDs and master’s degrees in anatomy and neurobiology, biomedical sciences, genetic counseling, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, pathology, pharmacology, physiology and biophysics, and translational sciences. Medical students also may pursue an MD/MBA, an MD/master’s in public health, or an MD/master’s degree through one of three mission-based programs: the Health Education to Advance Leaders in Integrative Medicine (HEAL-IM), the Leadership Education to Advance Diversity-African, Black and Caribbean (LEAD-ABC), and the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC). The UCI School of Medicine is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Accreditation and ranks among the top 50 nationwide for research. For more information, visit som.uci.edu.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

 

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