Weill Cornell Researchers Develop New Way To Predict Prostate Cancer Patients' Response to Radiation Therapy

May 3, 1999


Doctors treating localized prostate cancer have long been frustrated by not knowing which patients will or will not respond to radiation therapy. A significant proportion of patients fail therapy due to rising post-treatment prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. To solve this dilemma, researchers at Weill Medical College of Cornell University examined two genetic markers, bcl-2 and p53 in prostate biopisies, and developed a model that will help predict who will fail radiation therapy prior to the onset of treatment.

Results of the study were presented today at the American Urological Association 1999 Annual Meeting in Dallas. The study, led by E. Darracott Vaughan, M.D., and Douglas S. Scherr, M.D., of the Department of Urology at Weill Medical College, is an analysis of the link between two genetic markers, bcl-2 and p53, and patients' response to radiation therapy. Dr. Vaughan and his colleagues found that patients who had high levels of bcl-2 and/or p53 in their prostate biopsies went on to fail radiation therapy for their prostate cancer.

"Molecular markers such as bcl-2 and p53 have the potential to revolutionize the clinical staging system of localized prostate cancer," explains Dr. Vaughan. "There is overwhelming clinical evidence to suggest that patients who overexpress bcl-2 or have accumulation of functionally inactive p53 in their prostate biopsies will be much more likely to fail radiation therapy for their clinically localized prostate cancer," says Dr. Scherr.

These findings allow physicians to determine which patients will fail radiation therapy and may benefit from other treatments. Physicians can utilize this by having pathologists assess a patient's prostate biopsy for the genetic markers bcl-2 and p53.

Along with Drs. Vaughan and Scherr, the Weill Cornell research team includes Dr. Marilda Chung, Assistant Professor of Pathology; Dr. Diane Felsen, Associate Research Professor of Pharmacology in Urology; Dr. Robert Allbright, The Stich-Department of Radiation Oncology; and Dr. Beatrice S. Knudsen, Assistant Professor of Pathology.