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Positive progress in England on prostate cancer tests

Researchers in England are making promising progress on two tests for prostate cancer: a urine test at the University of East Anglia, Norwich; and a blood test at University College London.

The UK is home to two centres of excellence in prostate cancer research. The London Movember Centre, funded by the Movember Foundation and Prostate Cancer UK, is a tripartite collaboration led by The Institute of Cancer Research and involving University College London and Imperial College London. The centre draws together researchers from the ICR, The Royal Marsden, UCL and Imperial College London.

The second joint centre is between Manchester and Belfast.

Prostate Cancer UK has invested more than £11m into research over the past four years.

Diagnosis of prostate cancer currently involves a PSA [prostate specific antigen] blood test, then an invasive prostate biopsy and MRI, although up to 60 per cent of men with a raised PSA level are negative for prostate cancer on biopsy.

The diagnostic urine test being trialled at the University of East Anglia is designed to not only detect prostate cancer, but also offer a degree of specificity to the diagnosis and indicate its aggressiveness.

In February 2020, the team received £270,000 towards the pioneering research from the ‘Movember’ fundraising event as part of Prostate Cancer UK’s investment of £2.8m into eight research projects across the United Kingdom.

The prior iteration of the urine test was called PUR (Prostate Urine Risk), while a newer advance has been dubbed ExoMeth. The new research uses machine learning to analyse urine samples from prostate cancer patients, looking to determine the specific biomarker patterns of the disease.

Meanwhile, scientists from University College London are developing a test that can identify circulating fragments of tumor DNA in a blood sample and determine whether the cancer is metastasizing or responding to current treatments.

Dean of University College London’s Medical Sciences Faculty, Mark Emberton, says: “This test could be the first to tell us cancer has got into blood before the spread is large enough to see on imaging. This could allow targeting of treatment for men at the highest risk of prostate cancer spread.”

Both the blood and urine tests are still in developmental research stages. However, if validated in large cohorts, they could be incorporated into real-world environments within five to ten years.

The NCRI Cancer Conference is the UK’s largest forum showcasing the latest advances in cancer research, with more than 1,500 delegates. It takes place in 2020 at the ICC Belfast, 2-4 November.

(via New Atlas, Eastern Daily Press, The Institute of Cancer Research UK)