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From the Winter 2016 Quest
Children can inherit certain genetic changes from their parents that could increase the risk of cancer. photo by Betsy Haberl
Cancer is a genetic disease- that is, cancer is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. These changes include mutations in the DNA that makes up our genes.

Genetic changes that increase cancer risk can be inherited from our parents if the changes are present in germ cells, which are the reproductive cells of the body (eggs and sperm). Such changes, called germline changes, are found in every cell of the offspring.

Cancer-causing genetic changes can also be acquired during one's lifetime, as the result of errors that occur as cells divide during a person's lifetime or exposure to substances, such as certain chemicals in tobacco smoke, and radiation, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun, that damage DNA.

Genetic changes that occur after conception are called somatic (or acquired) changes. They can arise at any time during a person's life. The number of cells in the body that carry such changes depends on when the changes occur during a person's lifetime.

Many of Dr. Catalona's research efforts, which are supported by the URF, examine the role of genetics in prostate cancer. He was also involved in the study that discovered the first prostate cancer risk genetic variant as well as in subsequent studies identifying approximately 12 other risk variants.

In general, cancer cells have more genetic changes than normal cells. But each person's cancer has a unique combination of genetic alterations. Some of these changes may be the result of cancer rather than the cause. As the cancer continues to grow, additional changes will occur. Even within the same tumor, cancer cells may have different genetic changes.

Source: reprinted from the National Cancer Institute website

Looking For Active Surveillance Patients:

How to Help in the Search for Genetic Risk Markers
Signing Up for a Study for Active Surveillance Patients

This research project seeks to identify genetic variants that distinguish which tumors are hares and which are tortoises.

"Active Surveillance" is a term used for men who have been diagnosed with "low-risk" prostate cancer who have elected not to receive immediate treatment but rather to be monitored to see whether their cancer is more serious than it initially appeared to be.

Studying the genetics of these patients will most likely be the way to find the genes involved in developing aggressive or non-aggressive prostate cancer.

Dr. Catalona* wants active surveillance patients to contact his research group for participation in a prostate cancer genetics study.

If you have been or currently are enrolled in active surveillance for prostate cancer, your participation is of great value.

Patients from across the United States and other countries can participate. With all costs paid by the research project, participation involves providing a simple saliva sample in a container that can be mailed to you and completing a questionnaire about your prostate cancer and your family history. Both are then mailed back to the research center.

For sign up and study information: Call and leave your name and telephone number and a good time of day to return your call.

The telephone number to call is 312 695-0912.

*Dr. Catalona is the Principal Investigator for the SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) project called Impact of germline genetic variants on failure of active surveillance for prostate cancer.

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