The PSA screening test for prostate cancer is not perfect. It can indicate cancer when none is present and miss life-threatening tumors. But a new study suggests the test is more reliable in men taking dutasteride (Avodart), a drug widely prescribed to shrink an enlarged prostate gland.
Dutasteride lowers PSA levels by about half within six months. But the researchers found that even a slight rise in PSA levels among men taking the drug was a stronger indicator of prostate cancer, particularly aggressive tumors that require early diagnosis and treatment, than rising PSA levels in men who took a placebo.
"Dutasteride stabilizes the amount of PSA that comes from enlarged prostates and low-grade cancers," says lead author Gerald Andriole, MD, the Robert Killian Royce, MD, Distinguished Professor and chief of urologic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "This enhances a rising PSA's ability to detect high-grade cancers that require early diagnosis and treatment, while reducing the discovery of tumors that are unlikely to cause harm if left untreated."
The study is now available online and will be published in January in the Journal of Urology.
The PSA test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. The larger a man's prostate, the more PSA he produces. Elevated levels can point to cancer. But PSA often rises naturally as men age, mainly due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a progressive enlargement of the prostate. This leads to many false positive PSA tests for cancer. Indeed, biopsies only find cancer in about one in four men with an elevated PSA.
In the new study, the researchers looked more closely at data from a four-year trial that evaluated whether dutasteride could reduce the risk of detecting prostate cancer in men with an increased risk of the disease. The study involved 8,231 men ages 50-75 who were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or a daily
|Contact: Caroline Arbanas|
Washington University School of Medicine