'DNA test for prostate cancer relapse'
NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, 2012
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“A blood test for men with prostate cancer could detect if the illness is likely to be life-threatening,” the Daily Mail has reported.
In some cases prostate cancer can be benign, but in others it can be life-threatening and require treatment such as surgery or chemotherapy.
The news is based on research that looked at whether scanning for genetic abnormalities in various types of tissue could be used to predict whether prostate cancer would rapidly relapse after treatment.
To conduct the research, scientists looked at samples of blood, prostate tumours and healthy prostate tissue from 238 men who had undergone surgery to remove their whole prostate gland.
The researchers found that prostate cancer patients had high numbers of genetic mutations called ‘copy number variations’, in which sections of DNA are abnormally repeated or missing.
Particular repeats and deletions were more common in patients who went onto have a rapid relapse, and the size of copy number variations tended to be larger in these patients as well.
The researchers then used this information to create prediction models based on the DNA in different types of tissue samples.
This study is exciting because it raises hope that one day a test could help predict the outlook for patients with prostate cancer, which could in turn aid treatment decisions.
However, these findings will have to be further validated, and a simple, inexpensive test developed and tested before this is a realistic option for doctors.
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and was funded by the American Cancer Society, the US National Cancer Institute and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.