Scientists have developed an ‘at-home collection kit’ that they say will be able to diagnose aggressive prostate cancer and predict whether patients will need treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical tests.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said that Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) test, which can be performed on samples collected at home, will ‘revolutionise’ the way the disease is diagnosed as men will no longer need to travel to clinics to provide a urine sample or undergo a rectal examination.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. One in eight will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime and more than 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year and every 45 minutes one man dies from prostate cancer.
Lead researcher Dr Jeremy Clark, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man’s lifetime. However, doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men. He said:
‘The most commonly used tests for prostate cancer include blood tests, a physical examination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or a biopsy.
‘We developed the PUR test, which looks at gene expression in urine samples and provides vital information about whether a cancer is aggressive or ‘low risk’.
‘Being able to simply provide a urine sample at home and post a sample off for analysis could really revolutionise diagnosis.’
The research team provided 14 participants with an at-home collection kit, and instructions. They then compared the results of their home urine samples, taken first thing in the morning, with samples collected after a digital rectal examination.
‘We found that the urine samples taken at home showed the biomarkers for prostate cancer much more clearly than after a rectal examination. And feedback from the participants showed that the at-home test was preferable.
‘Using our At Home test could revolutionise how those on ‘active surveillance’ are monitored for disease progression, with men only having to visit the clinic for a positive urine result. This is in contrast to the current situation where men are recalled to the clinic every six to 12 months for painful and expensive biopsies.
‘Because the PUR test accurately predicts aggressive prostate cancer, and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods, it means that a negative test could enable men to only be retested every two to three years, relieving stress to the patient and reducing hospital workload.’
Director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, Dr David Montgomery welcomed the development but said more research needs to be done. He said:
‘If the benefits of this approach are confirmed in larger trials, this could provide more clarity around whether men are likely to need more urgent treatment or can safely remain under active surveillance.
‘However, this study compares the test to older methods for predicting whether a man’s prostate cancer will cause harm. More research now needs to be done to see how accurate this is compared to the newer, non-invasive methods being offered, such as multi-parametric MRI scans.’
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