Test that predicts prostate cancer

prostate_cancerThe first reliable test of whether men are at a high risk of prostate cancer has been developed by British scientists. The breakthrough raises the prospect of millions being screened for the disease in the same way as women are for breast cancer.

An accurate test for prostate cancer is the holy grail of research into the disease but has eluded scientists.

The test has so far proven to be twice as precise as the current method. It focuses on urine rather than blood, meaning it is cheaper and also has the advantage of dispensing with needles.

The 5.50 kit could be in widespread use in GPs surgeries in as little as four years.

Prostate is the most common cancer in British men, affecting 35,000 a year and killing more than 10,000.

Professor David Neal, a prostate cancer specialist at the Cambridge Research Institute, said: This is a vital piece of research that could go a long way to find a long-awaited and much-needed reliable and easy test to identify those men most at risk of developing prostate cancer. If further studies show this can be used in the clinic, this will be a landmark discovery.

Despite its terrible toll, prostate cancer is often described as a Cinderella cancer, losing out in resources to higher-profile conditions such as breast cancer.

The current blood test measures levels of a protein made by the prostate and crucially is only used to diagnose the disease rather than predict its onset.

The unreliability of the PSA test also means that older men are not routinely screened for the disease.

False positive and false negative results means it is wrong more often that it is right.

Three in four men with a raised levels of the prostate specific antigen protein are found not to have any cancerous cells when they undergo a biopsy, while one in five with prostate cancer has normal PSA readings.

As a result, many are subjected to the worry of unnecessary tests, while in other cases, fledgling cancers are missed until they have spread to other parts of the body and are much harder to treat.

In developing the new test, scientists from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute and the Institute of Cancer Research used results of genetic studies to link low levels of the microseminoprotein-beta protein (MSMB) with signs of the disease.

Low levels of MSMB foretell cancerous changes in the prostate, the journal PLoS ONE reported.

Researcher Dr Hayley Whitaker said that Initial studies suggest that the test is twice as accurate as the current one.

A trial on 1,200 men is under way and is expected to be finished by Christmas.

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