Could this be the key for a new prostate cancer test?

22 March 2019, Tim Burton - 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, but there are still problems when it comes to diagnosing the disease, and, once it’s been diagnosed, deciding how serious the cancer is. The current first line blood test for prostate cancer is the PSA test, but this marker is associated with false negative results, meaning that it is not accurate enough.

 Researchers across the world are looking for a new test for prostate cancer that will be better than the PSA test. One of those researchers is The Urology Foundation’s scholar, Mr Karl Pang.

Karl PangThe new marker of prostate cancer that Karl has found

Karl has been looking at blood and urine tests to see if he can find a marker for prostate cancer that could be tested for. A marker that is prostate cancer specific, meaning that, if you tested positive for it, it could only mean that you have prostate cancer.

What Karl found is something called an RNA Marker. The particular RNA marker that Karl found has been termed ‘short-PCA3’ and could be the key to a new and better test for prostate cancer.

PCA3 is already an established marker for prostate cancer but there are problems with it. The RNA is unstable and, when provided through a urine sample, it breaks down rapidly meaning that it is gone by the time the sample arrives in a lab for testing.

Karl’s research suggests that the short-PCA3 marker, which is shorter than the current PCA3 marker, won’t suffer from the same instability and that it will be able to make it from the patient to the lab without breaking down. This marker could be the key to a new and better way to diagnose and stratify prostate cancer.

Saving patients from pain and saving the NHS money

The current PSA test can be unreliable, as it’s not prostate cancer specific. A high PSA can be associated with infection, benign prostate enlargement and not just prostate cancer.  In a GP setting, if a man has a high PSA level then he will be referred to Urologists for further assessment. Investigations initiated by Urologists may include an expensive MRI scan and uncomfortable prostate biopsy, which can lead to bleeding and infection.

If Karl’s new prostate cancer marker can act as a better and more specific blood test for prostate cancer than it could save a lot of unnecessary MRI scans and prostate biopsies, as fewer men will be sent forward for testing.

Karl has since moved on from his research and it is now up to a new lab team or pharmaceutical company to pick up this exciting work and test it until it can be approved for use in patients. The potential is huge.               

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