Unravelling the genetics of prostate cancer


  • Stephen M. Edwards,

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    • Stephen Edwards is Senior Scientific Officer in the Prostate Sub Team. His degree was in Chemistry at the University of Exeter, and after this he joined The Institute of Cancer Research, where he undertook research in radiobiology for eight years. He then trained in molecular biology at The Institute of Cancer Research, on Dr. Eeles' team, and now leads the Prostate Laboratory Sub Team, which undertakes molecular analyses to identify prostate cancer predisposition genes.

  • Rosalind A. Eeles

    Corresponding author
    • Translational Cancer Genetics Team, Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey, UK SM2 5NG.
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    • Rosalind Eeles is Reader in Clinical Cancer Genetics, Team Leader of the Translational Cancer Genetics Team, The Institute of Cancer Research, and Head of the Cancer Genetics Unit, The Royal Marsden NHS Trust, London, United Kingdom. Dr. Eeles founded and runs the United Kingdom Familial Prostate Cancer Study, which has over 280 collaborators and aims to find genes that predispose individuals to prostate cancer. The team also has a translational clinical facility, the Carrier Clinic, that offers translational research programs to screen and manage individuals with a high risk of prostate cancer due to a genetic predisposition.


This review describes what is currently known about the genetics of prostate cancer. Traditionally, the genetics of a suspected inherited cancer predisposition have generally been thought of in terms of a single, high-risk gene with a dominant mode of inheritance. Such a gene might be observed in families, as has been documented in familial breast cancer (BRCA1/2), familial colorectal cancer (HNPCC), retinoblastoma (RB1), and Wilms tumor (WT1). This review investigates the evidence for the existence, first of familial prostate cancer, and second, for the presence of such a high-risk gene in those families by epidemiological and experimental approaches. Another current area of interest in prostate cancer is the investigation of the contribution of common lower penetrance genes to the disease. This alternative approach has become popular, as it raises the issue of frequently seen genetic variations such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) having relevance to the risk of developing the disease. Finally, this article will explore the way forward, with emphasis on worldwide collaboration from teams attempting to find the genes responsible for the disease and investment in new technologies that will aid in their discovery. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.