In order to investigate the genetic events associated with the initiation and progression of prostate cancer, scientists from the Urologic Oncology Branch (UOB) and the Laboratory of Pathology (LOP) at the NCI have made use of a number of innovative methodologies centered around the procurement of highly purified prostatic cancer cells from heterogeneous tissue. Novel microdissection techniques which allow such procurement were developed in the LOP; the most recent such technique involving laser capture of cells greatly increased the speed and purity of dissection. Chromosomal deletions are often found in the vicinity of genes that protect cells from becoming cancerous. Using DNA prepared from 99 microdissected tumors, scientists in the UOB analyzed 45 genetic markers spanning a number of chromosomal regions that had been previously implicated in prostate carcinogenesis. The highest rate of deletion was observed on human chromosome 8, where the overall rate of loss was 86%. Approximately 80% of the cancers shared a common region of deletion within chromosome 8 (8p21). This region also overlaps a region recently identified as a locus for familial breast cancer. Human prostate cancer is thought to progress through a pre-malignant phase called prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) prior to evolving into invasive cancer. In the region of chromosome 8 commonly deleted in cancer, deletions were also found in 63% of PIN lesions. This result suggests that abnormalities on 8p21 may be associated with early stages of prostate cancer development.
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