The findings may shed light on factors in other cancers that influence their sensitivity to chemotherapy, according to a report in Nature.
Cancers of the testes are known as germ cell tumors (germ cells produce sperm and eggs). In 2016, about 8,720 new cases are expected in the U.S., with about 380 deaths. Although they are rare, primary testicular germ cell tumors are the most common solid cancers in young men.
Most of the tumors are highly sensitive to chemotherapy, and more than 80 percent of patients with germ cell tumors are cured, even when the cancer has metastasized. However, a significant number become chemotherapy-resistant, and about 10 percent of patients with metastatic germ cell tumors die as a result.
Previous studies of the genomes of testicular tumors revealed mutations and chromosome damage, but haven’t pinpointed specific alterations or events linked to chemosensitivity or resistance. The new research was carried out by scientists led by Eliezer Van Allen, MD, of Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Christopher Sweeney, MBBS, of Dana-Farber. In a comprehensive search for the critical genomic and molecular features of these cancers, the scientists analyzed samples of 59 tumors from 49 patients treated between 1997 and 2014 at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) over a period.
Dr. Stegall’s Comments: Testicular cancer is very amenable to treatment, especially when it is discovered early. For this reason, every teenage and adult male should be in the habit of doing a testicular self-exam at least once per month. Increased surveillance will lead to earlier detection, and this information combined with the above study will hopefully help us improve the survival rate even more.