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The traditional way to screen for prostate cancer is the protein-specific antigen (PSA) test, a method that is not without its opponents and inaccuracies. Now researchers at Queen Mary University of London have announced a new blood test for aggressive prostate cancer, which appears to be significantly more accurate than current blood tests.
Use of a new way to test for aggressive prostate cancer is much needed. Currently, blood tests for cancer often lead “to unnecessary invasive biopsies and over-diagnosis and overtreatment of many men, causing significant harm to patients and a waste of valuable healthcare resources,” according to the study’s lead author, Yong-Jie Lu.
New blood test for aggressive prostate cancer
More than 250 men were tested using the new blood test, which involves use of a technology called Parsortix. This technology was designed to measure levels of circulating tumor cells in small blood samples.
Circulating tumor cells are early cancer cells that have escaped from the original tumor and entered the bloodstream before spreading throughout the body. Measuring these intact living cancer cells in the blood, as compared with PSA, which can be in the bloodstream for reasons other than prostate cancer, makes it potentially more accurate for detecting prostate cancer.
When the new test was applied, the researchers made several interesting findings.
- When the results were combined with the PSA test, researchers could detect aggressive prostate cancer with around 90 percent accuracy
- The aggressiveness of a man’s cancer could be measured by evaluating the type and number of circulating tumor cells in a given blood sample. This factor is significant because it may allow physicians to follow the progress of a tumor and thus avoid unnecessary biopsies or invasive procedures.
According to Lu, combining the new blood test with the current PSA test allowed them “to detect prostate cancer with the highest level of accuracy ever seen in any biomarker test.”
Another benefit of this blood test is that the number of men referred for prostate biopsies should decline.
Don’t expect to see this new blood test for aggressive prostate cancer in your doctor’s office anytime soon, however. The authors project it will be three to five years before it hits the market for general use. That means the next few years will be spent doing more studies to move this test along toward FDA approval.
Xu L et al. Non-invasive detection of clinically significant prostate cancer using circulating tumor cells. Journal of Urology 2019 Aug 7