British scientists are developing a new blood test for prostate cancer after they discovered a way of significantly increasing the accuracy of a diagnosis.
The existing Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is less than 50% accurate and frequently indicates that there are cancerous cells when there are not. This leads to a high number of men being sent for biopsy checks or even undergoing radiotherapy unnecessarily.
But scientists at Oxford Gene Technology (OGT) hope the new test will catch the disease earlier and reduce the number of deaths significantly.
It is being developed after researchers discovered that prostate cancer can be distinguished from benign prostate disease and health tissue by a set of biological markers, with 90% accuracy.
These protein ‘biomarkers’ show the existence of antibodies that are automatically raised in response to the development of prostate cancer.
Blood samples from 73 patients with prostate cancer and 60 patients without were then compared, which identified a series of these biomarker proteins. The method is now being tested further with 1,700 patients.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in British men, killing 10,000 a year.
John Anson, from OGT, said: “The appearance of autoantibodies may precede disease symptoms by many years. This means that autoantibody-based diagnostic tests can enable presymptomatic and early diagnosis of disease. Early diagnosis of cancer, especially aggressive forms, could significantly increase cure rates.”