A team of researchers from the University of California los Angeles and the University of Toronto have identified a new biomarker in the urine for aggressive prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer can be diagnosed with a blood test, but the test is not very accurate. For a confirmation of prostate cancer, a biopsy is required. A small amount of tissue must be taken from the prostate for analysis. The procedure is invasive and there can be serious complications.
A urine test for prostate cancer is the natural solution. The prostate sheds material into the urine as part of its natural biology, but until now, a suitable biomarker for a urine test had proved evasive.
Currently around 25%-40% of prostate cancer diagnoses are rated as clinically insignificant. A tumor is present, but it is so slow growing that it does not pose a threat to health. The researchers note that in many cases these patients still receive treatment, even though it is not medically necessary. That carries a cost to the patient and the health system. The difficulty in determining the aggressiveness of tumors means 20%-35% of men do not get sufficient treatment and end up relapsing.
Not only have the researchers identified a microDNA biomarker that can be detected in the urine and used to accurately diagnose prostate cancer, it also provides an insight into the aggressiveness of the tumor, how far it has spread, and how the patient will most likely respond to different treatments.
“We developed a three-stage experimental strategy that would maximize statistical and data science considerations to give us the best chance of finding a biomarker to predict prostate cancer aggressiveness,” said Paul Boutros, PhD, director of cancer data science for the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer. “Being able to go beyond just a snapshot in time is critical because you are able to focus in on the trends that are associated with the cancer, which is really the most important thing to distinguish in order to develop an accurate biomarker.”
Using the test the researchers were able to accurately diagnose 80% of aggressive prostate cancers and they estimated around half of patients were given treatments that were not necessary.
Further information can be found in the paper – Temporal stability and prognostic biomarker potential of the prostate cancer urine transcriptome – which was recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djz112