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Br J Cancer. 2008 Sep 16;99(6):847-51. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604558.

Fusion in the ETS gene family and prostate cancer.

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Department of Medicine, Womens College Research Institute, University of Toronto, ON, Canada.


It has recently been shown that the majority of prostate cancers harbour a chromosomal rearrangement that fuses the gene for an androgen-regulated prostate-specific serine protease, TMPRSS2, with a member of the ETS family of transcription factors, most commonly ERG. These are among the most common genetic alterations in any human solid tumour. This knowledge may provide us with clues to prostate carcinogenesis, and may lead to the development of important molecular-based biomarkers for patients with localised prostate cancer. The most common variant is fusion between the 5'-untranslated region of TMPRSS2 and the 3' region of ERG. However, over 20 other fusion variants have now been described (involving over 10 different genes) and the number of variants continues to grow. Fusion products can be identified by several techniques, including FISH, RT-PCR, and expression profiling using exon arrays. The protein products associated with the fusion transcripts have not been characterised, and the phenotypic expression of the various products of gene fusion on prostate cancer histology, or on the clinical course of cancer, are not yet understood. Several early cohort studies suggest that the presence of the TMPRSS2:ERG fusion product is associated with relatively poor cancer-specific survival. Studies that examine how individual variants and their associated phenotypes affect prostate cancer presentation and progression are required.

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