July 2024

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Prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among men. Scientists have developed a urine test that could help some men avoid unnecessary biopsies.

Screening for prostate cancer usually involves a blood test. The test measures levels of a substance called prostate specific antigen (PSA). High PSA levels may require more tests, such as a biopsy. A biopsy involves removing small samples from the prostate gland. Doctors then look for cancer cells.

Biopsies are generally safe. But they are sometimes painful. And they can lead to side effects like a fever or urinary tract infection.

Scientists have been looking for ways to avoid unnecessary biopsies. A decade ago, a research team created a urine test to detect prostate cancer. It could identify prostate cancer in its early stages. But the test could not tell the difference between serious cancers and slow-growing cancers. Slow-growing cancers may never need treatment.

In their latest study, the scientists created an improved urine test. They analyzed genes from hundreds of patients with prostate cancer. They found 18 genes in urine that could be used in combination to spot the presence of serious cancers.

They next used the new test to assess the urine of over 700 men with high PSA levels. The test could distinguish aggressive cancers from low-risk cancers. And it could rule out the presence of aggressive cancer with 97% accuracy.

“In nearly 800 patients with an elevated PSA level, the new test was capable of ruling out the presence of clinically significant prostate cancer with remarkable accuracy,” says study co-lead Dr. Jeffrey Tosoian of Vanderbilt University. “This allows patients to avoid more burdensome and invasive tests.”