New Test for Prostate Cancer?
Scientists have made a discovery that could lead to a simple test to help doctors decide which men who have prostate cancer require treatment and which do not.
More than 180,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the United States, making it the second leading form of cancer among men after skin cancer. But it's often a tough decision whether to get treated. Prostate cancers often grow very slowly, meaning many men could simply live with the disease without shortening their lifespan. And the treatments can cause serious complications, including incontinence and impotence. On the flip side, prostate cancer does kill more than 28,000 men each year.
In the new research, published in today's issue of the journal Nature, researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed 1,126 molecules produced by the body in 262 samples of tissue, blood or urine from men who were healthy or had been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer or prostate cancer that has spread.
The researchers found that one substance, known as sarcosine, was particularly elevated in men with advanced prostate cancer. In fact, it appeared to be a better indicator of advancing prostate cancer than testing for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is what doctors primarily currently rely on.
Because sarcosine can be detected in urine, it could potentially be used for a simply urine test to identify men requiring treatment.
In addition, tests in the laboratory indicate that sarcosine may play a direct role in making prostate cancer more aggressive. When the researchers added the substance to benign prostate cells in the laboratory, the cells became invasive. So drugs that block its activity could potentially be used to improve treatment.
The researchers cautioned, however, that much more research is needed to confirm the findings and determine how well it would work as a screening test. But if the initial findings hold up with further study the substance could help save a lot of men from unnecessary treatment. or alert those who do need to get treated that they need to act.
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