Researchers from the University of East Anglia have developed a new urine test for prostate cancer that could reduce the need for invasive biopsies.

A new study published today shows how an experimental new test called ‘ExoGrail’ has the potential to revolutionise how patients with suspected prostate cancer are risk-assessed prior to a biopsy.


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.

The most commonly used tests include blood tests, a physical examination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or an invasive biopsy.

However, doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men.

The Norwich research team say their new test could reduce the number of unnecessary prostate cancer biopsies by more than a third.

Lead researcher Dr Dan Brewer, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “While prostate cancer is responsible for a large proportion of all male cancer deaths, it is more commonly a disease men die with rather than from.

“Therefore, there is a desperate need for improvements in diagnosing and predicting outcomes for prostate cancer patients to minimise overdiagnosis and overtreatment whilst appropriately treating men with aggressive disease, especially if this can be done without taking an invasive biopsy.

Eastern Daily Press: Lead researcher Dr Daniel Brewer, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.Lead researcher Dr Daniel Brewer, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. (Image: Archant)

“Invasive biopsies come at considerable economic, psychological and societal cost to patients and healthcare systems alike.”

The research team used urine samples from 207 patients who had undergone a biopsy for prostate cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

When the urine results were compared to biopsy results, the study showed that the test had successfully shown which patients had prostate cancer and which did not.

Eastern Daily Press: Professor Colin Cooper who was also part of the UEA’s Norwich Medical School research team.Professor Colin Cooper who was also part of the UEA’s Norwich Medical School research team. (Image: Julian Claxton Photography)

The ExoGrail test also provided risk scores for patients and highlighted those for which an invasive biopsy would have been beneficial.

Dr Brewer said: “Our new urine test not only shows whether a patient has prostate cancer, but it importantly shows how aggressive the disease is. This allows patients and doctors to select the correct treatment. And it has the potential to reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies by 35 per cent.”