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Johns Hopkins Pediatric

A Molecular Marker for Aggressive Penile Cancer

November 30, 2017


“Penile cancer is a very challenging disease to treat and cure,” notes neurourologist Arthur Burnett, M.D., the Patrick C. Walsh Professor in Urology, “especially when it is not diagnosed early.” Making treatment even more challenging is uncertainty: not knowing “which clinical presentation carries the threat to progress, even when aggressive treatment is provided.”

Burnett, with Mark Ball, M.D., one of the Brady’s graduating chief residents in 2016, and pathologist George Netto, M.D., has been working to change this, by searching for novel molecular markers that could help guide treatment and predict the course of the disease.

The team investigated insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor expression in penile cancer, and “found that it is expressed in nearly two-thirds of men with penile cancer,” says Burnett. The presence of this receptor also correlates with lethal disease. This work, published in Urology, involved an analysis of tissue specimens collected in the pathology registry at Hopkins from 1985 to 2013.

“Our findings suggest the possible usefulness of identifying this molecular marker in men with penile cancer for counseling them about their risks of disease progression,” says Burnett. “In addition, it is possible that new drugs could be developed targeting this molecular marker that improve the treatment and survival outcomes in these patients.”

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