New test to check for prostate cancer?

A new study shows a urine sample may help doctors look for prostate cancer in men.  Researchers at The University of Michigan have come up with a way to check a urine sample for genetic markers that are connected to the invasive cancer.

“The test looks for a genetic anomaly that occurs in about half of all prostate cancers, an instance of two genes changing places and fusing together,” a press release said.  “This gene fusion is believed to cause prostate cancer. Studies in prostate tissues show that the gene fusion almost always indicates cancer. But because the gene fusion is present only half the time, the researchers also included another marker, PCA3. The combination was more predictive of cancer than either marker alone.”

Typically men have a biopsy done to check for prostate cancer, but this new test could be done first and give doctors a better idea of whether a biopsy is indeed needed.

“The hope is that this test could be an intermediate step before getting a biopsy,” says senior study author Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and S.P. Hicks Professor of Pathology at the U-M Medical School. Chinnaiyan is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher.  “Prostate biopsies are done with a needle in an office setting, but they do pose some discomfort and risk to the patient. In addition, a biopsy can offer an incomplete picture since urologists are testing the prostate as a whole, rather than a specific lesion.”

Researchers plan to further develop this test and create a plan to implement the test in hospital settings.

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