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Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- A complete genetic map of prostate cancer has been charted for the first time by scientists, an achievement that may expand understanding of the disease and lead to new treatments.

Scientists looked at seven kinds of prostate tumors, using a technology that allowed them to sequence the full genetic plan, and compared them to sequences from normal tissue samples, in a study published in the journal Nature. The work was led by researchers from the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The work is already providing insights into the disease, researchers said. Scientists have uncovered alterations in tumors that prevent the body from making proteins that suppress cancer growth. Other findings may eventually allow scientists to tell whether the cancer is slow-growing or aggressive.

“This first whole genome view shows us tantalizing evidence for several new prostate cancer genes that likely would have remained undiscovered” without this approach, said senior author Levi Garraway, a senior associate member of the Broad Institute, an assistant professor at the Boston-based Harvard Medical School, and an oncologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, in a statement today.

A genome is the complete set of genes, comprised of DNA, contained in a body cell, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Older Men Affected

Prostate cancer was estimated to kill 32,050 American men in 2010, and there were 217,730 new cases that year, according to the National Cancer Institute. The disease generally affects older men.

The tumor genomes were identified using technology from Illumina Inc., the San Diego-based gene-sequence machine maker.

The findings also may lead to new tests for prostate cancer, allowing doctors to know whether the disease will advance quickly or grow slowly, the authors said in the statement. For people with slow-growing prostate cancer, a watch-and-wait approach is recommended, according to the Mayo Clinic. More aggressive tumors may be treated through radiation, hormone therapy or surgery.

Mark Rubin, the other senior author on the paper, is a professor of oncology and pathology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

The project was funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, based in Santa Monica, California, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute based in Chevy Chase, Maryland and the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the Bethesda, Maryland-based National Institutes of Health.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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