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Role of Expression of ERV RNA in Prostate Cancer


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A molecular feature in prostate cancer called endogenous retroviral (ERV) RNA has been found to have prognostic value and also distinguish differences between prostate tumors in men of African and European or Middle Eastern ancestry, according to a study published by Kumar et al in the journal Cancers. The research team also identified ERV expression signatures that may be useful for identifying patients with prostate cancer who are at the greatest risk of disease progression regardless of ancestry; this information which may also extend to progression in other cancers.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the United States and affects millions of men worldwide, but there are disparities in its aggressiveness between patients of 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 it also has the potential to be useful in clinically relevant prognostic models for other cancers,” said senior study author Farahnaz Rahmatpanah, PhD, Assistant Professor in Residency in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of California, Irvine 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.”

Further Findings From the Study

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 disease progression between patients of primarily African vs 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 patients with prostate cancer of all ancestries were revealed, indicating that ERVs may be useful for identifying patients at the greatest risk of disease progression, and that the utility of ERV expression for studying prostate cancer progression may extend to other cancers.

Disclosure: This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit mdpi.com.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.
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