DEC 01, 2019 6:14 PM PST

At-home urine test detects prostate cancer

Peeing on a stick may not just be for pregnancy-detection anymore – an at-home urine test could also detect prostate cancer in the near future. New research published in Biotechniques offers hope for improving detection methods for prostate cancer with this recent development. The research comes from collaborators at the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 1 in 9 males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life; in 2019 alone, there will be roughly 174,650 new diagnoses of prostate cancer and approximately 31,620 deaths. While treatment is quite effective if caught in the early stages, prostate cancer is still the most common cancer among males in the US.

Men may soon be able to screen for prostate cancer in the comfort of their own bathrooms. Photo: Wikipedia

The new test has been named the PUR – or Prostate Urine Risk. Part of its genius is that it uses an at-home collection method, meaning that men are able to more conveniently collect their first urination of the day. (In case you didn’t know, that first-morning pee gives biomarker levels from the prostate that are much higher and more consistent.) This is much easier to swallow than other detection methods, as lead researcher Dr. Jeremy Clark explains.

“The most commonly used tests for prostate cancer include blood tests, a physical examination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or a biopsy.” Dr. Clark hails from UEA's Norwich Medical School. He continued: "Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It usually develops slowly and the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man's lifetime. However, doctors struggle to predict which tumors will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men.”

Once men have collected their urine samples, they can send them through the mail to be analyzed. The gene expressions in the samples are able to determine whether a cancer is aggressive or 'low risk'. It can also predict if patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods.

"Using our At Home test could in future revolutionize how those on 'active surveillance' are monitored for disease progression, with men only having to visit the clinic for a positive urine result. This is in contrast to the current situation where men are recalled to the clinic every six to 12 months for painful and expensive biopsies,” explains Clark. “Because the PUR test accurately predicts aggressive prostate cancer, and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods -- it means that a negative test could enable men to only be retested every two to three years, relieving stress to the patient and reducing hospital workload."

Robert Mills, Consultant Surgeon in Urology at the hospital, elaborated, saying: "When we do diagnose prostate cancer, the urine test has the potential to differentiate those who need to have treatment from those who do not need treatment, which would be invaluable. These patients go on to an active surveillance program following the diagnosis which may involve repeat biopsies and MRI scans which is quite intrusive. This urine test has the potential to tell us whether we needed to intervene with these patients."

The researchers hope PUR will result in more patients undergoing screening and increased earlier detection and treatment for prostate cancer. They also hope their research will eventually lead to similar technologies for bladder or kidney cancer.

Sources: Biotechniques, Science Daily Medical News Today

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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