London’s Institute of Cancer Research is planning a UK clinical trial for a DNA test designed to identify men at high risk of prostate cancer.

The saliva test is based on 63 new DNA genetic variations discovered by researchers during a study of more than 140,000 men. These variations were found to be linked with increased risk of cancer.

To develop the new test, the scientists combined these new single-letter genetic variants with up to 100 others that were previously associated with the disease.

The test is designed to identify the 1% of men who are at highest risk and about six times more likely to be affected by prostate cancer compared to the population average. Such men are said to have inherited multiple risky genetic variants.

“The next step is to see if we can use that information to help prevent the disease.”

Set to be performed using saliva samples from certain GP practices in the UK, the new trial will investigate if advice or preventative therapy can minimise prostate cancer cases in men at the highest inherited risk.

Institute of Cancer Research Oncogenetics professor Ros Eeles said: “If we can tell from testing DNA how likely it is that a man will develop prostate cancer, the next step is to see if we can use that information to help prevent the disease.

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“We now hope to begin a small study in GP practices to establish whether genetic testing using a simple spit test could select high-risk men who might benefit from interventions to identify the disease earlier or even reduce their risk.”

During their study, the team used the Oncoarray DNA analysis approach to examine around half a million single-letter variations in the DNA code of up to 80,000 patients with prostate cancer and about 61,000 men without the disease.