Barcode blood test to pick out aggressive prostate cancer
Scientists have developed a barcode blood test that reads changes in the pattern of gene activity in blood cells to identify and pick out the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer. The test is designed to be used alongside the current PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test as a way of selecting patients who are in immediate need of treatment.
The leader of the prostate cancer targeted therapy team at the Institute of Cancer Research Professor Johann de Bono says: “Our test reads the pattern of genetic activity like a barcode, picking up signs that a patient is likely to have a more aggressive cancer. Doctors should then be able to adjust the treatment they give.”
He added: “Prostate cancer is a very diverse disease – some people live with it for years without symptoms, but for others it can be aggressive and life-threatening – so it’s vital we develop reliable tests to tell the different types apart.”
The scientists studied patients splitting them into four groups based on the results. One group faired far worse; surviving significantly less time than the others.
The study was carried out again on American patients giving the same results. The patients with the bad gene signatures survived for an average of nine months compared to the twenty one months of those missing the genes. Professor Martin Gore, medical director of The Royal Marsden NHS said: “this blood test, which reads genetic changes in prostate cancer providing a prediction of how aggressive the cancer might be, is an important development, allowing us to better tailor treatment to suit each individual.”
Professor Malcolm Mason from Cancer Research UK says the results are very important because: “Not only do they point to a group of patients with advanced prostate cancer who do particularly badly, and who therefore may need different forms of treatment, but they also point to the possible role of the immune system in influencing how a cancer might behave.”
Prostate cancer currently affects approximately 35,000 men in the UK and accounts for one quarter of all male cancer patients, with 10,000 men dying from the disease each year.
The results of the study were published in The Lancet Oncology.