Researchers ID new subtype of prostate cancer

Researchers from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center have discovered a new subtype of prostate cancer that occurs in about seven percent of patients.

The subtype was determined to be more common in patients with metastatic cancer compared to early stage tumors and is identified by the loss of gene CDK12, according to a recent study published in Cell.  

“Because prostate cancer is so common, 7 percent is a significant number. The fact that immune checkpoint inhibitors may be effective against this sub-type of prostate cancer makes it even more significant. This is an exciting prospect for patients who have CDK12 alterations and may benefit from immunotherapy,” said senior author Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD, and director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, in a news release.

Analysis was performed on DNA and RNA sequencing data of 360 tumor samples taken from patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. The samples were from the University of Michigan’s Mi-ONCOSEQ program and also collected from the Stand Up to Cancer-Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team.

The loss of CDK12 was found in 1 percent of early prostate cancer samples, but that number bumped up to 7 percent for metastatic cancer.

“This very promising study suggests that CDK12 loss may be a biomarker for identifying prostate cancer patients who may respond to checkpoint immunotherapy,” said Howard Soule, PhD, and executive vice president and chief science officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation in the statement.