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New Test May Predict Prostate Cancer's Aggressiveness
Date:4/19/2010

Researchers say it can rule out men who don't need treatment

MONDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- An updated version of the standard prostate cancer test can help improve predictions about which men might not require immediate treatment, researchers report.

The basic test measures blood levels of prostate-specific androgen (PSA), a protein produced by prostate gland cells. But the standard PSA test cannot distinguish between cancers that grow so slowly they can safely be left alone and aggressive life-threatening tumors that call for surgery or radiation therapy.

The new test measures blood levels of three different types of PSA. Combined with annual biopsies, or tissue samples, it was about 70 percent accurate in singling out the aggressive tumors in a small study, John Hopkins University researchers were to report Sunday at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

"What we have shown is that using the Prostate Health Index and tissue DNA measurement is informative in separating out patients whose cancers are likely to progress vs. those that are not likely to progress," said study leader Robert W. Veltri, an associate professor of urology and oncology at Hopkins.

Prostate Health Index is the name given to the test by Beckman Coulter Inc., which plans to market it.

The study included 71 men originally diagnosed as having small, low-grade and low-stage prostate cancer, the kind whose ultimate aggressiveness is often in doubt.

Currently, identifying the dangerous tumors in that group is no better than "a coin-flip," Veltri said, and, as a result, many men and their doctors choose treatment that might be unnecessary and can cause impotence and other major problems.

Men in the trial had periodic blood tests that measured three different forms of PSA, including pro-PSA, a molecule in which two of the amino acids that make up the protein hav
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