African-American men are more prone to prostate cancer–and more likely to die of it–than are white men. Using genetic screens, researchers at Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport have identified a gene more active in prostate tumors from African-Americans than in those from white men.
The gene, TIMP-1, encodes a so-called tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (a protein-slicing enzyme). Tumor cells engineered to have extra copies of TIMP-1 are larger than cells without extra copies. They’re also more likely to have tiny ruffled or spiked extensions of the cell, and other cellular changes linked to cancers that grow quickly and spread easily, reports lead researcher Briana J. Williams.
“The exciting part is figuring out what makes TIMP-1 levels go up,” she says. “One of the regulators [of the gene] is cholesterol . . . and dietary fat has been linked to increased prostate cancer risk.” She and her colleagues intend to investigate this possible connection in animals.