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Researchers think men's urine could hold the key to more accurate cancer diagnoses

Current tests for prostate cancer can struggle to predict how aggressive the cancer might be - but an experimental urine test developed by researchers at the UEA and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital hopes to change that. Picture: Getty Images

Current tests for prostate cancer can struggle to predict how aggressive the cancer might be - but an experimental urine test developed by researchers at the UEA and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital hopes to change that. Picture: Getty Images

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Researchers in Norwich are bringing a less invasive test for prostate cancer on stream.

The prostate urine risk (PUR) test can differentiate between men with prostate cancer which will require treatment, those with a low-risk disease which is unlikely to need clinical intervention, and those without prostate cancer - something not possible with current diagnostic tests.

It is hoped the breakthrough test - developed by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) - could help large numbers of men avoid an unnecessary initial biopsy and repeated invasive follow-ups for "low-risk" patients.

Prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men in the UK, usually develops slowly and the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man's lifetime - but it is hard for doctors to predict which tumours will become aggressive and therefore decide on appropriate treatment.

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

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Lead author Shea Connell from UEA's Norwich Medical School said the uncertainty of diagnostic tests for prostate cancer meant a policy of "active surveillance" was developed, which results in some men electing for unnecessary treatment.

"Unfortunately, we currently lack the ability to tell which men diagnosed with prostate cancer will need radical treatment and which men will not," he said.

"It's clear that there is a considerable need for additional, more accurate, tests."

Fellow researcher Dr Jeremy Clark, also from the medical school, added: "If this test was to be used in the clinic, large numbers of men could avoid an unnecessary initial biopsy and the repeated, invasive follow-up of men with low-risk disease could be drastically reduced."

Dr Mark Buzza, global director of biomedical research programs at the Movember Foundation, one of the organisations which funded the study, said: "The PUR test has enormous potential to transform the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer."

The research was carried out in collaboration with organisations including the Earlham Institute, Norwich and the Institute of Cancer Research, London as well as partners in the US, the Netherlands, Norway and Northern Ireland.

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