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Nat Rev Urol. 2009 Aug;6(8):429-39. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2009.127.

ETS gene fusions in prostate cancer.

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Male Urological Cancer Research Centre, Sutton, UK.


Chromosomal rearrangements that result in high level expression of ETS gene family members are common events in human prostate cancer. Most frequently, the androgen-activated gene TMPRSS2 is found fused to the ERG gene. Fusions involving ETV1, ETV4 and ETV5 occur less frequently but exhibit greater variability in fusion structure with 12 unique 5' fusion partners identified so far. ETS gene rearrangement seems to be a key event in driving prostate neoplastic development: the rearrangement occurs as an early event and continues to be expressed in metastatic and castration-resistant disease. However, ETS alterations seem insufficient on their own to induce cancer formation. No consistent associations are seen between the presence of ETS alteration and clinical outcome, with the possible exception that duplication of rearranged ERG, reflecting aneuploidy, is associated with poor outcome. Thus, factors other than ERG gene status may be the major determinants of poor clinical outcome. Expression signatures of prostate cancers containing the TMPRSS2-ERG fusion suggest involvement of beta-estradiol signaling, and reveal higher levels of expression of HDAC1 and ion channel genes when compared to cancers that lack the rearrangement. These observations suggest new therapeutic possibilities for patients harboring ETS gene fusions.

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