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PSA 'Nanotest' May Spot Prostate Cancer's Return After Surgery
Date:10/19/2009

Screen could boost accuracy but is still years away from approval, experts say

MONDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new test that could revolutionize the treatment of men following prostate cancer surgery has worked well in a small, early trial, researchers report.

Using nanotechnology, the researchers were able to detect prostate-specific antigen (PSA), the cancer-associated protein, at levels far below what is now possible with older technology, explained Chad A. Mirkin, lead author of a report published online Oct. 19 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This could knock years off our current ability to detect a recurrence of cancer," said Mirkin, a professor of chemistry at Northwestern University in Chicago.

But it will be "a number of years" before the assay, or test, undergoes the larger-scale testing and vetting needed for approval of its use in medical practice, said Dr. C. Shad Thaxton, assistant professor of urology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, one of Mirkin's collaborators in development of the test.

The ultra-sensitive PSA test uses gold particles that are just 30 nanometers in diameter and have antibodies to PSA as well as strands of DNA, the basic genetic molecule, attached to them. The combination allows detection of PSA at levels 300 times lower than is now possible, Mirkin said.

PSA testing is controversial when it is used to screen for prostate cancer, he acknowledged. "But no one is arguing that a rising PSA level is not a marker of recurrence," Mirkin said.

He envisions use of the PSA nanotest routinely in men after prostate surgery. "It can stratify the population post-operatively," Mirkin said. "About 42 percent of the time there will be no recurrence, and this test will allow us to determine that years earlier than we can with conventional tools."

If rapidly rising PSA levels are detected, "there is no definit
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