New DNA Test Could Replace PSA for Prostate Cancer Screening

One goal of prostate cancer research is to develop tests that allow early detection of the disease and a means to determine if and when the disease may spread. Currently, the main test for prostate cancer screening, the PSA test, detects any abnormality in the prostate and is not specific for prostate cancer. However, there is the possibility that a new test could replace PSA for prostate cancer screening.

Scientists have discovered that during the early stages of prostate cancer development, certain changes occur in genes that could be used as biomarkers—known as DNA methylation profiles–to detect the disease sooner and more accurately than is possible using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. This finding was reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research and represents the first time researchers have captured these gene changes in the entire human genome in prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can develop when the process of DNA methylation turns off the activity of tumor suppressor genes. Investigators at Mayo Clinic Rochester analyzed the methylation status of 14,495 genes from 238 men with prostate cancer and discovered specific methylation changes that corresponded to whether a man had a slow-growing tumor or aggressive prostate cancer.

According to senior author Krishna Donkena, PhD, a molecular biologist, “Our approach is more accurate and reliable than the widely used PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test.” Dr. Donkena and her team are working to develop a more cost-effective and practical test than the one used in their research that will allow clinicians to predict the development of prostate cancer and its recurrence.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Mahapatra S et al. Global methylation profiling for risk prediction of prostate cancer. Clinical Cancer Research 2012 May 15; 18(10): 2882-95

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