A new urine test for prostate cancer could “revolutionise treatment” and prevent unnecessary biopsies.
The test is more sensitive than current methods – and is designed for men who are suspected of having prostate cancer, as well as those already diagnosed with low risk cancer who are on a “watch and wait” approach.
For men suspected of having prostate cancer, the test can work out if they have aggressive or intermediate levels of disease, and can rule out those without cancer. This cuts down the need for a barrage of tests, such as blood tests, a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or a biopsy.
Meanwhile, for men on active surveillance – or the “watch and wait” – the test could cut follow-up appointments from once every year to once every five years.
At present, medics struggle to identify those patients with an aggressive form of the disease who need immediate treatment from those who are low risk.
The new test hopes to overcome this. It is called the Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) and was developed by a team at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).
For their study, researchers collected urine samples from 537 men and looked at the expression of 167 different genes, of which 35 were identified as useful markers of risk.
Dr Jeremy Clark, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “The really exciting thing is that the test predicted disease progression up to five years before it was detected by standard clinical methods.
“Furthermore, the test was able to identify men that were up to eight times less likely to need treatment within five years of diagnosis. If this test was to be used in the clinic, large numbers of men could avoid an unnecessary initial biopsy and the repeated, invasive follow-up of men with low-risk disease could be drastically reduced.”
Dr Mark Buzza, global director of biomedical research programmes at the Movember Foundation – which funded the study, said: “The PUR test has enormous potential to transform the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.”
Around 48,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK, and more than 11,000 die from it.
Dr David Montgomery, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This study compares the test to older methods for predicting whether a man’s prostate cancer will cause harm.
“More research now needs to be done to see how accurate this is compared to the newer, non-invasive methods being offered, such as multi-parametric MRI scans.”