This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

New blood test detects prostate cancer without need for biopsy, study finds

A blood test has been found to accurately detect prostate cancer, which could reduce the number of invasive biopsies that need to be carried out, researchers have said.

The blood test, which detects circulating early tumour cells, together with prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing was very effective at detecting aggressive prostate cancer in patients who hadn’t yet had a biopsy.

The study was published in the Journal of Urology and researchers looked at over 150 patients with histologically confirmed prostate cancer. They found that the blood test being positive for circulating tumour cells was significantly associated with positive biopsy results.

They also found that combining the blood test with PSA testing generated a risk score that was more effective than PSA testing alone at detecting clinically significant prostate cancer.

The researchers also looked at just under 100 patients with concerning PSA results but who had not had biopsies and found that the blood test was able to detect clinically significant prostate cancer with over 90% accuracy.

They said in the paper: ‘High (>50%) negative biopsy rates in abnormal PSA highlight its limitation as a biopsy trigger. Additionally, many early-stage PCAs are indolent and do not affect mortality.

‘A non-invasive biomarker, which can be used to avoid unnecessary biopsies, over-diagnosis, and over-treatment, would be a useful addition to the diagnostic pathway, allowing resources to be focused on patients with clinically significant prostate cancer.’

Lead researcher Professor Yong-Jie Lu from Queen Mary University of London said: ‘Testing for circulating tumour cells is efficient, non-invasive and potentially accurate, and we’ve now demonstrated its potential to improve the current standard of care. By combining the new circulating tumour cell analysis with the current PSA test, we were able to detect prostate cancer with the highest level of accuracy ever seen in any biomarker test, which could spare many patients unnecessary biopsies. This could lead to a paradigm shift in the way we diagnose prostate cancer.’

Researchers believe that the blood test could be available on the NHS in 3-5 years.

A study earlier this year found that a urine test was able to determine how prostate cancer might progress without the need for men to undergo biopsies.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Expect it to be unavailable on the NHS as "lacking evidence" until the rest of the World has been using it for a decade or so.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • nhs needs sorting out big time--too much money wasted on admin and fashionable causes

    typical monopoly spending private sector taxpayers money without any responsibility

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Ivan Benett

    This is great news as the evidence develops. It would be good to see a NICE analysis on the cost benefit of such a two test approach. If it’s affordable then improving the risk assessment for men with a more sensitive and specific test has got to be a step forward. Biopsy is still the diagnostic test that will determine whether to adopt a watchful waiting approach or a more interventionist strategy. Prostate cancer causes significant morbidity as well as premature deaths. We should resist calls by populists and many Pulse contributors to have a nihilistic approach to this condition.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • David Banner

    Presumably GPs will still check PSAs in symptomatic patients then refer to urology who can perform this new test to reduce unnecessary biopsies and speed up diagnosis of the more aggressive cancers. Can’t see a down side, looks very promising.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say