Inherited genes play a greater role in prostate cancer than was previously thought, raising the possibility of personalised treatments for the disease, research has shown.

A new study suggests that around 12% of men with advanced prostate cancer have defective genes inherited from one or both of their parents.

The most common affected gene was BRCA2, which is also linked to breast and ovarian cancer in women.

Like the other inherited prostate cancer genes, when working properly it helps repair faulty DNA.

Professor Johann de Bono, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who led the UK team, said: “Our study has shown that a significant proportion of men with advanced prostate cancer are born with DNA repair mutations – and this could have important implications for patients.

“Genetic testing for these mutations could identify men with advanced prostate cancer who may benefit from precision treatment.

“We could offer these men drugs such as PARP inhibitors, which are effective in patients with certain DNA repair mutations and are showing important anti-tumour activity in ongoing clinical trials.

“Where we find BRCA2 mutations, we could also offer genetic testing and counselling to relatives of the patient to consider how we can reduce their cancer risk.