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Int J Cancer. 2007 Dec 15;121(12):2591-5.

Oldest known case of metastasizing prostate carcinoma diagnosed in the skeleton of a 2,700-year-old Scythian king from Arzhan (Siberia, Russia).

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Department of Anatomy, University of Göttingen, Germany.


To determine whether a 2,700-year-old tumor can be reliably diagnosed using microscopic and proteomic techniques and whether such prostate carcinomas show the same morphological pattern at the micro-level as modern-day carcinomas, this case was investigated. A 40-50-year-old Scythian king who lived during the Iron Age in the steppe of Southern Siberia (Russia) suffered from macroscopically visible osteoblastic and osteoclastic lesions throughout his entire skeleton. Macro-morphological (macroscopy, endoscopy, radiology) and micro-morphological techniques (histology, scanning-electron microscopy) as well as proteomic techniques (1-D- and 2-D-electrophoresis, Western blot) were applied. The results of the morphological and biochemical investigation proved that this mature male suffered for many years from and probably died of a carcinoma of the prostate. The diagnosis mainly rests on the results of the microscopic examination of the lesions and the positive evidence of PSA, which is an important marker for the diagnosis of prostate cancer. It is remarkable that, in this ancient case, the morphological pattern at the microlevel is the same as in recent cases. The loss of the spongy bone substance (red bone marrow) provoked chronic anemia during the final months of the life of this king. The proteomic techniques applied are new for the investigation of recent and ancient macerated bones. Sensitive and reliable biochemical markers (PSA) are an important precondition to detect such tumors in recent and ancient materials. Currently, this is the oldest known case of prostate cancer diagnosed reliably by morphological and biochemical techniques.

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