Washington, Oct. 16 (Reuters): A test that can detect ovarian cancer using a single drop of blood can also catch prostate cancer, potentially saving many men the embarrassment and discomfort of a biopsy, researchers said yesterday.
It found prostate cancer in 95 per cent of men whose cancer was confirmed by more conventional means, and also screened out men suspected of having cancer, the researchers reported.
“This new technology has the potential to revolutionise how men are diagnosed with prostate cancer,” Dr David Ornstein, a urologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who worked on the study, said in a statement. “It is likely that it will be possible to use a simple blood test to accurately identify men who are affected with a harmful prostate cancer but spare healthy men from undergoing unnecessary biopsies.” Prostate cancer is the second-biggest cancer killer of men in the United States. The American Cancer Society predicts that 189,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and 30,000 will die of it. It is often found using a PSA test, which checks for levels of a protein called prostate specific antigen that is over-produced by cancerous prostate cells.
Men with intermediate scores of between 4 and 10 on the PSA test are usually advised to get a biopsy — which means having a piece of tissue taken out of this delicate area for testing. Up to 80 per cent of men who undergo such a biopsy do not turn out to have prostate cancer. Writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a team including researchers at the Food and Drug Administration and the NCI described using the blood test. They compared blood samples from 31 men known to have prostate cancer with those of 25 cancer-free men. They marked out a baseline pattern of proteins found only in the blood of men with cancer. They used this pattern to look for cancer in 266 new patients, many of whom had volunteered for a prostate screening programme in Chile.