Patterns of proteins found in patients blood serum may help distinguish between prostate cancer and benign conditions, scientists from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute*. The technique, which relies on a simple test using a drop of blood, may be useful in deciding whether to perform a biopsy in men with elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels.
Using a test that can analyze the patterns of small proteins in blood serum samples in just 30 minutes, researchers were able to differentiate between samples taken from patients diagnosed with cancer and those from patients diagnosed with benign prostate disease. The technique proved effective not only in men with normal and high PSA levels, but also in those whose PSA levels were marginally elevated (4 to 10 nanograms of antigen per milliliter of fluid), in whom it is difficult to rule out cancer without a biopsy.
Although the technique is still under evaluation, researchers believe the analysis of protein patterns will be a useful tool in the future for deciding whether men with marginally elevated PSA levels should undergo biopsy. PSA levels are commonly used as a preliminary screen for prostate cancer, but 70 percent to 75 percent of men who undergo biopsy because of an abnormal PSA level do not have cancer. The new proteomic approach has a higher specificity - that is, of the samples the test identifies as cancer, a large percentage are in fact cancer, rather than some other benign disease.
NCI Press Office | EurekAlert!
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