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.