Big progress in an accurate, noninvasive urine test for prostate cancer

In a new study, researchers have made big progress toward the development of a simple, noninvasive liquid biopsy test that detects prostate cancer from RNA and other specific metabolic chemicals in the urine.

The researchers emphasize that this is a proof-of-principle study for the urine test, and it must be validated in additional, larger studies before it is ready for clinical use.

The research was conducted by a team at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center

The team used RNA deep-sequencing and mass spectrometry to identify a previously unknown profile of RNAs and dietary byproducts, known as metabolites, among 126 patients and healthy, normal people.

The participants included 64 patients with prostate cancer, 31 with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis diseases, and 31 healthy people with none of these conditions.

The team found RNA alone was not sufficient to positively identify cancer, but the addition of a group of disease-specific metabolites provided separation of cancer from other diseases and healthy people.

They discovered cancer-specific changes in urinary RNAs and metabolites that—if confirmed in a larger, separate group of patients—will allow them to develop a urinary test for prostate cancer in the future.

The team says a simple and noninvasive urine test for prostate cancer would be a significant step forward in diagnosis.

Tissue biopsies are invasive and notoriously difficult because they often miss cancer cells, and existing tests, such as PSA (prostate-specific antigen) elevation, are not very helpful in identifying cancer.

The lead author of the study is Bongyong Lee, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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