Prostate Cancer: Test for Aggressive Forms
Welcome to this month’s Men’s Health newsletter. Our topic: New potential for predicting aggressive prostate Cancer. A simple urine test might someday be used to determine if men have a fast-growing, aggressive form or prostate cancer, according to a report in the journal Nature. The test identifies small molecules called metabolites that are linked with prostate cancer. They say such a test could help to identify those individuals who need aggressive treatment, and might one day lead to new therapies.
More than 186,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed this year with prostate cancer, and almost 29,000 will die from the disease. Lead researcher Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan says metabolites, like genes and proteins, should also be measured to better understand cancer. However, before a urine test involving metabolites could become standard medical practice, it would have to undergo animal testing and then human trials.
For the lab study, Dr. Chinnaiyan’s group studied over 1,000 metabolites from 262 tissue, blood, and urine samples taken from men with early, advanced, and metastatic prostate cancer. From these samples, the researchers identified 10 metabolites that often appeared with prostate cancer and, notably, with advanced prostate cancer.
One of the ten metabolites called sarcosine was the most indicative of advanced prostate cancer. No trace of sarcosine was found in samples from men who didn’t have prostate cancer. The report says sarcosine was a better indicator of advanced prostate cancer than the current marker for the disease, prostate specific antigen, or PSA. Dr. Chinnaiyan says that because of sarcosine’s relationship with invasive cancer, future drug development may include developing compounds to block sarcosine. Ideally, he says, researchers would like to find other metabolites linked with prostate cancer to predict the course of the disease with even more precision.
Dr. Michael Chen, who also wrote in the journal, says the report advances the use of metabolites in understanding cancer. However, the goal for a clinical application is a long way off. Dr. Margaret K. Offermann at the American Cancer Society stresses that studies are needed to see if the approach could be used with patients. This isn’t a perfect test, but it may be useful in combination with PSA, says Dr. Offermann, and she says it could be a new target for treatment.
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