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New Tests for Prostate Cancer Might Bring More Certainty
Date:6/2/2010

Gene-based screens could reduce unnecessary biopsies, worry, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Two new tests promise to cut down on the number of biopsies now taken from men suspected of having prostate cancer, researchers report.

The tests -- still in the early stages of development -- might also offer better clues about which cancers require immediate treatment and which can be left for so-called "watchful waiting," researchers reported Tuesday at the American Urological Association's annual meeting, in San Francisco.

Both tests check for increased levels of genetic material -- one for the DNA of which genes are made, the other for the RNA that carries the messages from those genes. And both tests appear to add certainty to the suspicion of prostate cancer provided by the most widely used test for prostate cancer, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood screen.

PSA testing is often used to screen men for prostate cancer. A high blood level reading of PSA is often followed by a biopsy -- tissue sample -- to detect cancer cells.

However, "only one of three [such patients] is likely to have a positive biopsy," noted Dr. Rakesh Singal, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who presented one report at the meeting. "We wanted to come up with a test that tells us which patients are likely to have positive biopsies," to help spare men unnecessary procedures and worry, he said.

The test Singal described looks at blood levels of specific DNA. Prostate cancer can increase those levels, because malignant cells grow abnormally fast and cause the death of other cells, Singal explained.

The study included 252 men referred for prostate biopsies because of abnormal PSA test readings. Singal's team found that high levels of the target DNA were significantly associated with the presence of a cancer.

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