Research delving into prostate cancer development has identified several key indicators of early cell change that may help researchers better understand how prostate cancer arises as well as how to create new targeted treatments.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center and published in The Prostate, was based on previous work which revealed higher than normal levels of early growth response 1 (EGR-1) and fatty acid synthase (FAS) in tissues near prostate cancers. In a continuation of that work, scientists in this study compared levels of EGR-1 and FAS in samples from prostate tumors, tissue adjacent to prostate tumors, and tissue from donors unaffected by cancer. Test results showed significantly raised levels of EGR-1 and FAS in tissues near prostate tumors, a finding which both helps define prostate field cancerization, a process thought to be very much connected to the development and progression of prostate cancer, and points the way to possible new forms of therapy.

Field cancerization is the presence of molecular alterations in structurally normal tissues adjacent to a tumor. The specific type of molecular alterations can be different depending on what type of cancer the field cancerization is associated with. While alterations have started becoming identifiable in some cases, for instance in relation to breast cancer, they have yet to be solidly defined in relation to prostate cancer until now. This study indicates that raised levels of EGR-1 and FAS define prostate field cancerization.

The clarification of what molecular alterations define prostate field cancerization is extremely important because those alterations can provide clues as to how exactly prostate cancer develops and how it could be treated most effectively. In some cases molecular alterations can be used as prime targets for molecular therapies like chemopreventives. In other cases they can be used to gauge the progression of the disease even in its pre-malignant stages.

Understanding more about prostate field cancerization has other clinical uses as well as the long term research and treatment benefits. Being able to identify areas of field cancerization would allow for more targeted biopsies leading to improved diagnosis. Similarly, recognizing areas of field cancerization may help indicate the likelihood of cancer recurrence, helping doctors work towards an improved prognosis for patients.

Media Contacts: Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, (505) 797-6673; email: or Audrey Manring, UNM Cancer Center, (505) 925-0486; email: