The diagnostic issues of prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting males. If diagnosed in its early low-grade stages, the prognosis is excellent with 99% 5-year survival rate. However, in the high-grade aggressive stages, prostate cancer has less than 30% 5-year survival rate. Currently, the main method to screen for prostate cancer is by taking a blood sample and testing the presence of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). However, although PSA has good sensitivity for prostate cancer, its specificity is relatively low. PSA may be elevated in other conditions affecting prostates such as infection or inflammation. False diagnosis as prostate cancer may lead to unnecessary invasive biopsy procedures, which are costly and painful to the patient.
Irish researchers have recently come up with a simple urine test for prostate cancer that has much higher specificity than the traditional PSA marker. In Ireland alone, 3500 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year, among which 500 men die from aggressive forms of cancer. This has led to many unnecessary invasive tests in people without prostate cancer.
The Research ‘epiCaPture’
Cancer researchers at University College Dublin (UCD)
To study the specificity and sensitivity of a new test for prostate cancer
500 adult men
Urine samples from 500 men were collected to test for traces of DNA changes found only in aggressive prostate cancer patients
Early findings from the research have indicated the urine test to be 70% more sensitive than blood tests for PSA.
The significance of the test
The higher specificity of the test makes it easier for doctors to decide which patients actually require further invasive biopsy examination. This decision allows the prevention of unnecessary tests in patients without prostate cancer.
In addition, it can also detect aggressive prostate cancer in its early stages to allow effective treatment. Prostate cancer can be treated by a combination therapy including surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiation.
If the research team is successful in their endeavor, it may pave the way for simple urine tests to diagnose and screen prostate cancer in a few years.