LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The answer to how physicians might be able to predict the growth of patient’s prostate cancer could lie in the person’s DNA, according to a report released by a research team that included experts at UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Researchers identified nearly 1,200 biomarkers in men’s DNA that appear to predict how an individual’s prostate cancer will grow, according to the study published in Nature Medicine.

According to the report, researchers focused on a process called DNA methylation, a natural process that turns genes on or off as part of normal physiological changes. Tumors that develop in the body can “hijack” the process to help cancer cells grow and spread — but their ability to do so appears to be dependent on variations in the patient’s DNA, according to the study.

By studying tissue samples from prostate tumors in 589 men, researchers sought to identify DNA variations that make it easier or harder for tumors to spread through methylation. They identified 1,178 biomarkers, or locations in a person’s DNA, that can aid or assist in the process.

Researchers said linking tumor growth to a person’s DNA could eventually help doctors predict how prostate cancer will evolve in specific patients, and also ultimately help diagnose and treat the disease.