A new and simple blood test has been found to efficiently and accurately detect the presence of aggressive prostate cancer, according to research by Queen Mary University of London.
The new test could help men avoid unnecessary and invasive biopsies, over-diagnosis and over-treatment.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Western men, with 1.3 million new cases being diagnosed each year worldwide. It is currently detected using a blood test that measures PSA levels. Although it provides early diagnosis, the PSA blood test has a low specificity (high false positives) with about 75 per cent of all PSA positive results ending up with negative biopsies that do not find cancer.
When a high PSA level in the blood is detected, the patient undergoes a tissue biopsy of the prostate gland, which is invasive and carries a significant risk of bleeding and infection. On biopsy, the majority of patients with elevated PSA levels are found not to have cancer.
Additionally, most diagnosed early-stage prostate cancers are not fatal if left untreated.
The current practice of the combined PSA test and biopsy for prostate cancer therefore results in unnecessary biopsies and over-diagnosis and overtreatment of many men.
Lead researcher Professor Yong-Jie Lufrom Queen Mary’s Barts Cancer Institute said:
“The current prostate cancer test often leads to unnecessary invasive biopsies and over-diagnosis and overtreatment of many men, causing significant harm to patients and a waste of valuable healthcare resources. There 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.”