New research has indicated that a less invasive prostate cancer testing procedure is showing good results and may be ready widespread use very soon. Previously doctors looked for elevated levels of prostate specific antingen (PSA) to determine if prostate cancer may be present, but the test was not always reliable. The new test looks for markers in the blood that indicate prostate cancer may be present and looks to be more accurate.
The new blood test looks for three markers in the blood in addition to PSA. The PSA test typically has a misdiagnosis rate of about 32% but the research indicates the new test may have a misdiagnosis rate as low as 9%. The blood markers in question are cytokines proteins, specifically IL-8, TNF-alpha and sTNFR1.
Prostate specific antigens are proteins in the blood that usually increase when men have prostate cancer. This kind of test has been in use since the 1980s but in recent years it’s lack of accuracy has been an issue for many doctors. Some research groups have shown that as many as 70% of men have elevated PSA levels but do not have prostate cancer.
Those men often have to endure a biopsy to confirm the presence of the cancer when it was not necessary. If the number of needless biopsies can be reduced by this new test, it is also a substantial saving for the health care system.
Dr Kailash Chadha presented the findings on the new test to the American Association for Cancer Research recently.
The PSA test also finds cancer that do not need to be treated because they are not life threatening and will not spread to other parts of the body.
The new three blood marker test is much better at determining if the cancer is localized prostate cancer (that will not spread) or high risk prostate cancer that is at risk of spreading to other parts of the body. If the doctor knows the precise nature of the cancer, then that will allow them to make a much better judgement call about further diagnosis and treatment options.
Dr Chadra says that the new test needs more research before it can be released into the medical world, but at this stage the findings are very encouraging. Another study researcher, Dr. Willie was quoted as saying: “What we really need is something that will reduce the number of men getting unnecessary biopsies, and also better distinguish those who should get treated compared to those who don’t need to be treated, Right now, with our current tools, we can’t adequately do that.”
This early stage research contained less than 50 men and most of them were male, so larger groups are required to determine the efficacy of the test.