A new test can detect signs of prostate cancer using urine samples collected at home, according to a study which could predict whether patients will require treatment for the disease up to five years earlier than current methods. The researchers, including those from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK, said prostate cancer was one of the most common cancers in men, developing slowly in a man's lifetime with the majority of cases not requiring treatment.
However, they said, doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many patients. The study, published in the journal BioTechniques, noted that the 'PUR' test -- Prostate Urine Risk -- could be performed on samples collected at home, so men don't have to come into the clinic to provide a urine sample - or have to undergo a rectal examination.
"The most commonly used tests for prostate cancer include blood tests, a physical examination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or a biopsy," said Jeremy Clark, lead researcher of the study from UEA. "We developed the PUR test, which looks at gene expression in urine samples and provides vital information about whether a cancer is aggressive or 'low risk'," Clark added.
The researchers provided 14 participants with an At Home Collection Kit and instructions, and compared the results of their home urine samples, taken first thing in the morning, with samples collected after a digital rectal examination. They found that the urine samples taken at home showed the biomarkers for prostate cancer much more clearly than after a rectal examination.
The at home test was also preferable among the participants, the researchers said. "Using our At Home test could in future revolutionise how those on 'active surveillance' are monitored for disease progression, with men only having to visit the clinic for a positive urine result. This is in contrast to the current situation where men are recalled to the clinic every six to 12 months for painful and expensive biopsies," Clark explained.
The researchers said following a diagnosis, patients usually go on to an active surveillance programme that involves repeated biopsies and quite intrusive MRI scans. "When we do diagnose prostate cancer, the urine test has the potential to differentiate those who need to have treatment from those who do not need treatment, which would be invaluable," said study co-author Robert Mills from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK.