A NEW blood test for prostate cancer is more accurate and could help men avoid unnecessary and invasive biopsies, research has found.
The test is able to accurately identify early cancer cells – known as circulating tumor cells or CTCs – that have left the tumour and entered a patient’s bloodstream before spreading around the body.
By measuring cancer cells in the blood, rather than the PSA protein which may be present in blood for reasons other than cancer, it potentially provides a more accurate test.
Experts believe that when used alongside the current PSA test, it could reduce over-diagnosis and bring an end to unnecessary treatment.
Lead researcher Professor Yong-Jie Lu said: “The current prostate cancer test often leads to unnecessary invasive biopsies and over-diagnosis and treatment of many men, causing significant harm to patients and a waste of valuable healthcare resources.
“Three is clearly a need for better selection of patients to undergo the biopsy procedure.
“Testing for circulating tumour cells is efficient, non-invasive and potentially accurate, and we’ve now demonstrated its potential to improve the current standard of care.
“By combining the new CTC analysis with the current PSA test, we were able to detect prostate cancer with the highest level of accuracy ever seen in any biomarker test, which could spare many patients unnecessary biopsies. This could lead to a paradigm shift in the way we diagnose prostate cancer.”
Figures released earlier this month found that thousands of men are dying from prostate cancer as it is spotted too late.
Figures from the male cancer charity Orchid found that 40 per cent of diagnoses are made in stages three or four, even though it is the most common cancer to affect men in the UK.
The latest research was carried out at Queen Mary University of London and was published in the journal Urology. It looked at the use of the CTC test in 98 pre-biopsy patients and 155 newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.
The research team found that the presence of CTCs in pre-biopsy samples could show the presence of aggressive prostate cancer and predict the outcome of later biopsy results.
When used in conjunction with the PSA test, it was also to predict the presence of aggressive prostate cancer in subsequent biopsies with over 90 per cent accuracy. The number of CTCs found in the blood could also give an idea how aggressive the cancer was.
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Dr David Montgomery, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “This is an interesting study looking at how testing for prostate cancer cells circulating in the blood could be used alongside the PSA test and multiparametric MRI scanning to help aid diagnosis of prostate cancer.
“The study is small but seems to demonstrate that testing for these cells could help better predict which men are likely to have clinically significant prostate cancer and should go for further investigation, compared to the PSA test and mpMRI alone.
“It would be important to see these results further refined in larger studies and larger patient groups before clinicians would be able to confidently rule people out of further tests such as biopsy.”
Prostate cancer symptoms
- Needing to urinate more often, especially at night
- Needing to rush to the toilet
- Difficulty in starting to pee
- Weak flow
- Straining and taking a long time while peeing
- Feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied fully
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