Scientists find new genetic test predicts prostate cancer risk


By Lynne Friedmann

A genetic test to predict the risk for prostate cancer could reduce the need for repeat biopsies in men who have previously had negative biopsies.

In a clinical trial, 1,654 men who had prostate biopsies also had genetic studies conducted that looked for the presence of genetic variations that may have an association with prostate cancer risk.

The genetic test outperformed the widely used PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test in assessing cancer risk. Because this “genetic score” is available at any time in a man’s lifetime it could be used as a pre-screening test thus leaving aggressive PSA screening only to men at higher genetic risk.

The goal is to avoid, particularly in older men, unnecessary repeat biopsy procedures which carry with them the risk of infection and potential hospitalizations.

— Findings appear in the journal of European Urology.

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Inhibiting malaria parasite development

Malaria is responsible worldwide for more than 1.2 million human deaths annually. Severe forms of the disease are caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum transmitted to humans by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Lack of vaccines, together with the parasite’s ability to develop drug resistance, has thwarted eradication efforts.

An international team of scientists, led by researchers from the Department of Pediatrics at the UC School of Medicine, has identified the first reported inhibitors of a key enzyme essential for the development and survival of P. falciparum — even in parasites that developed resistance to currently available drugs.

People with a natural deficiency in this enzyme are protected from malaria and its deadly symptoms, an observation that triggered the research effort. The hope is the discovery could provide the basis for future anti-malarial drug design.

— Findings appear in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. News release at

Fighting E. coli infection

Despite ongoing public health efforts, E. coli bacteria outbreaks continue to infiltrate the food supply, annually causing significant sickness and death throughout the world.

Researchers from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology have discovered a molecule’s previously unknown role in fighting off E. coli and other bacterial infections.

The molecule (known as HVEM), expressed by the cells lining the surface of the lung and intestine, is critical to protecting the body from E. coli, pneumococcus, and other bacterial infections that enter our bodies through our respiratory or intestinal tract linings. But what wasn’t known was that HVEM, together win another receptor, is critically important in turning on an anti-bacterial response in the epithelial cells that line the body’s mucosal borders of the mouth, nose, intestines, and lungs. Without the two receptors acting in concert to provide this added protection, the body could not withstand these bacterial infections.

— The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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*Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.