Prostate Cancer Detection – DNA Blood Test Could Be More Accurate Solution

December 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

The prostate specific antigen (PSA) test has been the standard test for the detection of men with prostate cancer.

However, there are still some doubts about is effectiveness and complete reliance. With more research going on, a study is now suggesting that the use of DNA blood test could very well become useful in detecting cancer of the prostate.

This test looks at various genetic features to draw its conclusions. More details of this research, which has been conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh,   are highlighted below:

“A blood test for men with prostate cancer could detect if the illness is likely to be life-threatening,” the Daily Mail has reported. In some cases prostate cancer can be benign, but in others it can be life-threatening and require treatment such as surgery or chemotherapy.

The news is based on research that looked at whether scanning for genetic abnormalities in various types of tissue could be used to predict whether prostate cancer would rapidly relapse after treatment. To conduct the research, scientists looked at samples of blood, prostate tumours and healthy prostate tissue from 238 men who had undergone surgery to remove their whole prostate gland. They compared genetic differences to the different outcomes the men experienced.

The researchers found that prostate cancer patients had high numbers of genetic mutations called “copy number variations”, in which sections of DNA are abnormally repeated or missing. Particular repeats and deletions were more common in patients who went onto have a rapid relapse, and the size of copy number variations tended to be larger in these patients as well. The researchers then used this information to create prediction models based on the DNA in different types of tissue samples.

This study is exciting because it raises hope that one day a test could help predict the outlook for patients with prostate cancer, which could in turn aid treatment decisions. However, these findings will have to be further validated, and a simple, inexpensive test developed and tested before this is a realistic option for doctors.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and was funded by the American Cancer Society, the US National Cancer Institute and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. The study was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Pathology.

The Daily Mail’s coverage of the story was generally accurate, although it may imply that the research could help discern benign prostate tumours from life-threatening ones before treatment. However, the research was conducted in patients after a round of treatment where they had already had surgery to remove all or part of the prostate. Also, the Mail’s headline suggests that the test has been developed and is soon to be implemented, which is not the case. The story correctly stated that “it is likely to be several years before the academics are able to develop a blood test to predict the speed prostate cancer will spread.”


What kind of research was this?

Prostate cancer is not typical of most cancers, as men can live with the condition for many decades without any symptoms or the need for treatment. This is because in most cases the cancer progresses very slowly, at such a rate that they will probably die of other causes or even old age before it causes ill effects on their health. However, a minority of men with the disease experience a more rapid progression of their cancer that requires treatment, such as a prostatectomy (surgery to remove all or part of the prostate).

This cohort study of men with prostate cancer examined whether the presence of genetic abnormalities in various types of tissue could predict whether a person with treated prostate cancer would relapse. It looked at the amount of genetic abnormalities in tumour tissue, normal tissue adjacent to a tumour and in blood.

The specific type of genetic abnormality the researchers looked at is called a copy number variation. This occurs when duplications or deletions in the genetic code cause an abnormal number of copies of a region of DNA. The researchers initially looked at samples from 238 men who had had radical prostatectomy (a surgical procedure where part or all of the prostate gland is removed), and three cell lines (a type of isolated cell used in lab research). They then validated their findings on an additional 25 samples.

This study was appropriately designed to see whether patients who have different outcomes have differences in copy number variation. However, before this technique can be used as a test, it will have to be trialled on a much larger cohort of people, so that researchers can get a clearer picture of its use in clinical settings. For example, researchers will need to know how often the test might miss patients that are likely to relapse, and also how often the test incorrectly suggests a person’s cancer is likely to relapse, which could lead them to have unnecessary further treatment. Also, as the authors note, the techniques used in this study need high-quality DNA, so may be difficult and expensive to perform.

Click here to read more about the research.

So, from details of the above research, it can be confirmed that there is new option for the detection of prostate cancer.

DNA blood test looks deeper into the genetic composition of the individual and provides clearer results that doctors can use to predict relapse of the condition after treatment.

The study states the new test has high level of accuracy. More so, with the information from the study, prognosis can be made with ease.

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