WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Studies by a Purdue University-led team have revealed a potential marker for prostate cancer that could be the starting point for less invasive testing and improved diagnosis of the disease.
The team used a new analysis technique to create a profile of the lipids, or fats, found in prostate tissue and discovered a molecular compound that appears to be useful in identifying cancerous and precancerous tissue. The profile revealed that cholesterol sulfate is a compound that is absent in healthy prostate tissue, but is a major fat found in prostate cancer tumors.
Graham Cooks, Purdue's Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Timothy Ratliff, the Robert Wallace Miller Director of the Purdue Center for Cancer Research, led the team.
"It was surprising to find a single compound that is distinctly present in cancerous tissue and not present in healthy tissue," said Cooks, who is co-director of Purdue's Center for Analytical Instrumentation Development. "We've been able to differentiate cancerous from healthy tissue using this new method in the past, but the difference was in the amounts of the same chemical compounds found in healthy tissue. There was no single differentiator of which one could say if it was present there was cancerous tissue."
Ratliff said this characteristic makes the compound a potential marker for the disease, which could lead to new blood or urine tests to screen for prostate cancer.
"Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths," Ratliff said. "Unfortunately, the current screening test has a significant number of false positives because it uses a marker that is present with other non-cancerous conditions. As a result, many men have unnecessary biopsies, which are invasive, expensive and have the potential to cause infection. This new compound appears to be highly specific t
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