Genetic Biomarker May Predict Nerve Pain Side Effects Associated with Prostate Cancer Treatment, Moffitt Researchers Say

May 12, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. – Taxanes are a group of drugs commonly used to treat cancers of the breast, lung, ovary, or prostate, but its use can be limited by significant side effects. Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center report prostate cancer patients who have a variation in the VAC14 gene are more susceptible to a side effect called peripheral neuropathy when treated with the taxane docetaxel. 

Peripheral neuropathy is a common side effect of taxane treatment. Patients who suffer from this condition have damage to their peripheral nerves and experience weakness, numbness and pain usually in their hands or feet and occasionally in other areas of the body. This can limit the use of an otherwise effective cancer treatment. 

In a study published online May 3 in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, researchers analyzed the DNA of men who had castrate-resistant metastatic prostate cancer and participated in a randomized phase 3 clinical trial that included docetaxel in the treatment regimen.  Out of 623 prostate cancer patients from the study, 50 (8.1%) experienced debilitating peripheral neuropathy. 

The researchers examined the patients’ DNA for genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were associated with docetaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy. They discovered that a variation in the VAC14 gene was highly associated with the incidence of docetaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy.

“The genetic variant of VAC14 identified in this study could be useful for understanding the mechanism of docetaxel-induced neuropathy and may be informative for avoiding docetaxel treatment in patients at elevated neuropathy risk,” said Howard McLeod, Pharm.D., medical director of the DeBartolo Family Personalized Medicine Institute at Moffitt. “This also offers new drug development strategies to improve the outcomes for cancer patients.” 

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (grants U01GM61390, U01GM61393, P30NR014129), ALLIANCE (CA31936 and CA33601), and ECOG-ACRIN (CA21115 and CA16116). 

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. One of the three largest cancer centers in the United States based on patient volume, the Tampa-based facility is one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. Moffitt devotes more than 2 million square feet to research and patient care. With more than 5,000 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $1.9 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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