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Cancer Res. 2006 Sep 1;66(17):8347-51.

Expression of variant TMPRSS2/ERG fusion messenger RNAs is associated with aggressive prostate cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Baylor College of Medicine and Michael E. DeBakey Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Recent studies have reported that the majority of prostate cancers express fusion genes in which the 5' region of the androgen-regulated TMPRSS2 gene is fused to an ETS family transcription factor, most commonly the ERG gene. We have characterized in detail the expression of TMPRSS2/ERG fusion mRNAs and correlated the isoforms expressed and expression levels with clinical outcome in cancers from men undergoing radical prostatectomy. Overall, 59% of clinically localized prostate cancers express the TMPRSS2/ERG fusion gene, confirming the initial observations of high frequency expression of this fusion mRNA in prostate cancer. There was significant variation in the alternatively spliced isoforms expressed in different cancers. Expression of an isoform, in which the native ATG in exon 2 of the TMPRSS2 gene is in frame with exon 4 of the ERG gene, was associated with clinical and pathologic variables of aggressive disease. Expression of other isoforms, in which the native ERG ATG in exon 3 was the first in-frame ATG, was associated with seminal vesicle invasion, which is correlated with poor outcome following radical prostatectomy. Cancers not expressing these isoforms tended to express higher levels of fusion mRNAs, and in this group, higher expression levels of fusion mRNA were present in cancers with early prostate-specific antigen recurrence. Thus, both the isoforms of TMPRSS2/ERG fusions expressed and expression level may affect prostate cancer progression.

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