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Study Supports Change to Prostate Cancer Biopsy
Date:10/2/2007

An added measure could boost test's ability to guide treatment

TUESDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Adding an extra step to the standard test for prostate cancer might improve treatment for some men, a new study finds.

Doctors now use what's known as the Gleason test -- named for the physician who developed it -- as a major tool in judging how aggressively a prostate cancer should be treated, explained lead researcher Dr. Abhijit A. Patel, a radiation oncologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

His team published its findings in the Oct. 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the Gleason test, doctors take a biopsy of the cancer and look at the level of disorder displayed by cells in the two largest sections of the sample -- scoring them from 1 (less disorderly) to 5 (more disorderly).

"The less it looks like normal tissue, the more aggressive [the cancer] is," Patel explained. They then add up the two numbers to arrive at a Gleason score. A score of 7 calls for treatment such as radiation therapy, Patel said, while higher scores indicate an even more dangerous tumor.

In the new study, the Brigham and Women's team looked for a third pattern of disorder from another part of the samples. Such disorderly patterns are found in about 5 percent of cases but usually are ignored. The new report included that third pattern in the diagnostic process.

Tests on 2,370 men with prostate cancer showed that men with Gleason score 7 plus this disorderly third pattern had a more rapid increase in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood. PSA indicates prostate tumor growth of the tumor and is the basis of the common PSA diagnostic blood test.

These men should probably receive more aggressive treatment to fight their disease, Patel said, compared to men without this combination of factors.

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