Five distinct types of prostate cancer, each with its own unique genetic pattern, have been discovered, according to new research.
The study, undertaken by Cancer Research UK, measured samples from 250 patients against each individual's recovery after undergoing surgery, discovering that some forms of prostate cancer are more likely to recur than others.
This research marks a breakthrough, as until now, there has been no reliable or accurate method of identifying which patients have the more aggressive types of the disease and need urgent and intensive therapy.
While the results are promising, Cancer Research UK needs to conduct larger trials to be certain that the findings are valid and can be generalised to the wider population.
Professor Malcolm Mason, whose team conducted the study in partnership with Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, explained that some the types discovered were milder, slow growing and causing few problems, while others spread quickly and aggressively.
His research partner, Dr Alastair Lamb, added that there is a possibility that the genetic information imprinted on the distinct types of prostate cancer could be combined with existing tests to identify the patients that are more at risk.
He said: "These findings could help doctors decide on the best course of treatment for each individual patient, based on the characteristics of their tumour.
"The next step is to confirm these results in bigger studies and drill down into the molecular 'nuts and bolts' of each specific prostate cancer type."
However, he was quick to add that there are still many questions that need to be answered to ensure that the results are viable, such as whether the technique could be used routinely by hospitals.
Dr Iain Frame, of Prostate Cancer UK, noted that for these results to really benefit men, the research community needs to work together to find the most efficient methods for testing for reach of the five types that can be used in clinics.
More than 41,700 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year, leading to more than 10,000 deaths annually. It is the most common form of the disease among men and is the third most survivable type of the disease in the UK.
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