Home urine test helps diagnose aggressive prostate cancer
UK scientists have pioneered a simple urine test which diagnoses aggressive prostate cancer and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods.
Their latest study, published in the journal BioTechniques, shows how the ‘PUR’ (Prostate Urine Risk) test could be performed on samples collected at home, so men don’t have to come into the clinic to provide a urine sample — or undergo an uncomfortable rectal examination.
“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK,” said lead researcher Dr Jeremy Clark, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School. “It usually develops slowly and the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man’s lifetime. However, doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men.
“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.
“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’.
“Because the prostate is constantly secreting, the collection of urine from men’s first urination of the day means that the biomarker levels from the prostate are much higher and more consistent, so this is a great improvement.”
The research team provided 14 participants with an At-Home Collection Kit, as well as instructions. They then compared the results of the home urine samples, taken first thing in the morning, with samples collected after a digital rectal examination.
“We found that the urine samples taken at home showed the biomarkers for prostate cancer much more clearly than after a rectal examination,” said Dr Clark. “And feedback from the participants showed that the at-home test was preferable.
“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 6–12 months for painful and expensive biopsies.
“Because the PUR test accurately predicts aggressive prostate cancer — and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods — it means that a negative test could enable men to only be retested every two to three years, relieving stress to the patient and reducing hospital workload.”
The research team say their findings could also help pioneer the development of home-collection tests for bladder or kidney cancer.
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