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New blood test to detect prostate cancer

A team of researchers at the John Hopkins Hospital in the US say that they have come up with a better alternative to the PSA to detect prostate cancer.//

The new test is called EPCA-2 (early prostate cancer antigen-2) and it works in a simple blood test.

Prostate cancer, the most common malignancy in men, is one of the more perplexing areas of medicine. Physicians are unsure how to find it and when to treat it.

Current standards of screening and testing for prostate cancer focus on the blood protein prostate-specific antigen (PSA) along with a digital rectal examination. Men who have more than 2.5 nanograms per milliliter of PSA are considered at risk for prostate cancer.

However, PSA testing often erroneously highlights noncancerous conditions (false positives) and can miss some cases of cancer (false negatives).

It is in such a backdrop the new test could prove to be a more useful option. EPCA-2 is a protein that is part of the 'nuclear matrix,' the scaffolding inside a cell's nucleus that helps it copy its genes.

A team led by Robert H. Getzenberg, professor of urology and director of research at the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine tried the new test on 30 men with PSA readings above 2.5 and in whom biopsies found no cancer.

All had normal EPCA-2 readings (below 30 ng per ml.). This suggested that the test may eliminate many of the 'false-positive' PSA results -- readings that are abnormal but apparently do not denote cancer.

On the other hand, the EPCA-2 test appears able to detect cancer even when the tumor is small. It identified 36 out of 40 men who had cancer confined to the prostate gland, and 39 out of 40 men in whom the tumor had spread. It also identified many men -- 14 out of 18 -- who had cancer but whose PSAs were normal.

Due to elevated PSA levels, approximately 1.6 million men undergo prostatic
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