Breakthrough in prostate cancer testing could cut the need for painful biopsies
A simple blood test that confirms the presence of prostate cancer could prevent 70pc of painful biopsies, scientists believe.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in the UK have discovered the immune system changes when cancer is present, and that difference can be picked up in the blood.
More than 3,400 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Ireland. However, thousands more will develop symptoms that will turn out to be harmless.
"This test has the potential to spare men with non-cancerous disease or low-risk cancer from unnecessary, invasive diagnostic procedures and tests," said Prof Masood Khan, consultant urologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and visiting professor at Nottingham Trent.
Men are currently screened for the potential presence of prostate cancer using a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which looks for a biomarker that rises when the disease is present.
However, readings vary between individuals and naturally rise as people age.
The current test is further complicated because elevated levels of the antigen do not always mean the patient has prostate cancer, while a normal reading does not exclude its presence. The new test would be used following a PSA test to help doctors decide whether a high reading really does mean cancer.
As well as being able to discount cancer altogether, it has the potential to spare men with no cancer or low-risk cancer from having biopsies and other procedures and tests. The research is reported in 'Frontiers in Immunology'.