At present, there is no way to distinguish between the more serious forms of prostate cancer and the less serious which may not require surgery or chemotherapy. But a breakthrough has been made which may save hundreds of men from undergoing unnecessary treatment.
Scientists at Cancer Research UK found that patients with high levels of the protein NAALADL2 are more likely to need surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy while those with low concentrations may not, reported The Telegraph.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, and a reported 41,000 men are diagnosed with it each year, with around 25% dying from the illness.
WHAT IS THE PROSTATE?
The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men. About the size of a walnut, it is located between the penis and the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis.
The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of semen. It produces a thick white fluid that is mixed with the sperm produced by the testicles, to create semen.
The results of the study - which examined 250 patients - were published in the Oncogene journal, which showed that those with higher levels of the protein were twice as likely to relapse after treatment than those with low levels. Researchers revealed that it could lead to more accurate assessments of who might need treatment and who could be monitored.
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ES magazine reported lead author Dr Hayley Whitaker as saying: “This is early research, but if clinical trials confirm our results then it could help clinicians to tell which patients have a more aggressive tumour and need proportionally aggressive treatment, while sparing patients with low-grade tumours unnecessary radiotherapy or surgery.
“This is an important step along the path to developing a much sought-after test that could distinguish between different types of prostate cancer.”
Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert, added: “I have been waiting for years for a test that can define the aggressive disease. I hope that this research brings forward the day when I can say to patients: ‘We know that your cancer doesn’t need treatment’.”