New Test May Predict Return of Prostate Cancer

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After men receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer, they typically have questions about best treatment options and how the disease will progress, while those who undergo prostate surgery often wonder whether they will experience a relapse. Now researchers have discovered genetic abnormalities called copy number variations (CNVs) in prostate cancer tumors and nearby benign prostate tissue that can help predict prostate cancer relapse and progression.

At the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Jian-Hua Luo, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Divisions of Molecular and Cellular Pathology and Anatomic Molecular Pathology, and his team conducted a genome analysis on 238 samples of prostate tumor tissue, benign prostate tissue near a tumor, and blood from men undergoing radical prostatectomy. The samples came from men with rapidly rising PSA levels, slowly rising PSA levels, and those with no relapse more than five years after surgery.

Luo noted that “Our analysis indicates that CNV occurred in both cancer and non-cancer tissues, and CNV of these tissues predicts prostate cancer progression.”

Using CNV from tumors, the model correctly predicted 73% of cases of prostate cancer relapse and 75% of cases for rapid PSA doubling time. The use of blood samples correctly predicted 81% of prostate cancer relapse and 69% of cases for rapid PSA doubling time.

In the near future, men who get a diagnosis of prostate cancer and wonder “now what?” may go to their doctor and have access to a tool beyond the PSA test that can better answer that question for them. As Luo noted, “Despite some limitations…CNV analysis on the genome of blood, normal prostate, or tumor tissues holds promise to become a more efficient and accurate way to predict the behavior of prostate cancer.”

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Yu YP et al. Genome abnormalities precede prostate cancer and predict clinical relapse. American Journal of Pathology 2012 Jun; 180(6): 2240-48