A ten year international collaboration led by three British cancer charities is homing in on a gene involved in testicular cancer, known as TGCT1. Testicular germ-cell cancer is the commonest cancer among young men in Western Europe and its incidence is on the increase worldwide. Men who inherit the mutation TGCT1 gene are up to 50 times more likely to develop testicular cancer.
The researchers, who published their findings in this month's Nature Genetics, have narrowed down the search for TGCT1 to a small region of the X chromosome.
Identifying TGCT1, and other genes involved, will eventually enable doctors to screen for the disease, so it can be detected and treated earlier. Testicular cancer has a uniquely high cure rate of 90 to 95 percent. 'We would like to know why', said Professor Michael Stratton of the Institute of Cancer Research in Surrey, one of the charities involved. 'The answer must reside in the molecular basis of the cancer and if we can find out more about that we may get an insight into what the biological processes are that make this cancer more curable.'
Although it may take another two to five years to pinpoint the TGCT1 gene and identify the mutations that predispose to testicular cancer, Professor Stratton is already looking at patenting their find. 'I am typical of most scientists in that I am not in favour of patenting naturally occurring human gene sequences', he said. But he also believes that patenting the TGCT1 gene is the only way to prevent others taking over and exploiting their discovery. Professor Stratton was part of the team that identified the breast cancer gene BRCA2, which was then controversially patented by American biotechnology firm Myriad genetics.
Sources and References
Testicular cancer breakthrough
Scientists find gene that causes testicular cancer