WASHINGTON A mutated gene previously linked to breast cancer has been found in 70 percent of prostate tumors as well, U.S. researchers reported on Friday.
They found the gene BP1 was overactive in samples of prostate tumors removed from patients and said their finding suggests the gene may underlie other cancers too.
"We have previously published that it is active in 80 percent of (ductal) breast cancer (samples tested) and 63 percent of acute myeloid leukemia, and now we are finding it in prostate cancer," Dr. Patricia Berg of the George Washington University Medical Center, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
Berg said the BP1 gene also appeared overactive in prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, or PIN, a pre-cancerous change in prostate tissue.
Berg and colleagues tested 50 prostate tumor samples from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and 123 from the National Cancer Institute. They compared these to samples of healthy prostate tissue.
Writing in the journal Modern Pathology, they said BP1 was overactive in 70 percent of the tumors.
BP1 is a so-called homeobox gene -- one of a family of transcription factors involved in early development. A transcription factor turns other genes on and off and these are supposed to be turned off in mature tissue.
Cells that are improperly switched back on may proliferate out of control, and this process, at least in part, underlies many cancers.
BP1 may be active early in the process of developing cancer, Berg said.
She believes it may be possible to target drugs to turn down BP1's effects.
Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men in many countries, and is diagnosed in 679,000 men every year, killing 221,000.
In 2003, Berg's team reported finding that BP1 was overactive in 80 percent of the samples of tissue from breast cancer patients, and in 89 percent of samples from black women.
(Reporting by Maggie Fox)