New barcode prostate cancer test

A blood test that reads genetic changes in blood cells like a barcode can now predict how severe a man’s prostate cancer may be. 

The PSA test, which research in America concluded did ’more harm than good’, has never been able to determine whether a prostate cancer was slow-, or fast-growing.

Two new research studies have shown that by reading the pattern of genes switched on and off in blood cells, researchers can more accurately identify which prostate cancers had the worst survival rates.

Professor Johann de Bono, who led one of the studies at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, said, ’We’ve shown it is possible to learn more about prostate cancers by the signs they leave in the blood, allowing us to develop a test that is potentially more accurate than those available now, and easier for patients than taking a biopsy’.

A hundred men with prostate cancer took part in a trial at the ICR and Royal Marsden’s joint Drug Development Unit in London and The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow (Lancet Oncology).

A second study, also published in the Lancet Oncology was led by Professor William Oh at the Tisch Cancer Institute of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the USA. In this, the researchers found a signature of six genes that could be used to pinpoint men with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Many people die with prostate cancer rather than from the disease. It can be very slow growing but in about 5 per cent of cases it is very aggressive and hitherto scientists have not been able to differentiate between the two forms. Often a biopsy can have complications and may not even shed further light on the issue. These two new studies therefore offer a significant step forward.

July - September Cancer Watch
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