London, July 30: British researchers have for the first time identified five distinct types of prostate cancer, each with a characteristic genetic fingerprint.
The findings could help doctors identify patients with the aggressive forms of the disease and provide timely treatment.
"Our exciting results show that prostate cancer can be classified into five genetically-different types," said study author Alastair Lamb from Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge.
"These findings could help doctors decide on the best course of treatment for each individual patient, based on the characteristics of their tumour," Lamb noted.
The researchers studied samples of healthy and cancerous prostate tissue from more than 250 men.
By looking for abnormal chromosomes and measuring the activity of 100 different genes linked to the disease they were able to group the tumours into five distinct types.
This analysis was better at predicting which cancers were likely to be the most aggressive than the tests currently used by doctors, the study said.
"The next step is to confirm these results in bigger studies and drill down into the molecular 'nuts and bolts' of each specific prostate cancer type," Lamb said.
"By carrying out more research into how the different diseases behave we might be able to develop more effective ways to treat prostate cancer patients in the future, saving more lives," Lamb noted.
The study was published in the journal EbioMedicine.