Chromatography Helps to Deliver a New Prostate Cancer Test
Mar 11 2016 Read 1885 Times
In the UK, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men. Every day, another 120 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK — with an average of one man dying every hour from the disease in England. About one in eight men will get the disease in the UK — men over 50, men with a family history of the disease and black men are at a higher risk of getting prostate cancer.
As with all forms of cancer, the sooner the disease is diagnosed and the quicker treatment begins — the better for the long term outlook. But as with other types of cancer, by the time the symptoms are recognised and acted on, the cancer can be quite advanced.
But, following research by UK scientists — gas chromatography could be about to help open the door on early prostate cancer diagnosis.
High specificity test
Prostate cancer is not on the list of cancers that are screened for in the general population. This is partly because the test for prostate cancer — serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) — has a low specificity, the ability of a test to identify patients without a disease. Therefore, the PSA test is not good at ruling men as clear of prostate cancer, and consequently too many men go for a biopsy that turns out negative. Having an unnecessary biopsy can have an adverse psychological impact on patients and result in an infection.
A study published in the Journal of Breath Research has described a potential new test that could help diagnose prostate and bladder cancers at an early stage and with a much better success rate than the PSA test. The team found that the system they have developed was able to identify cancer biomarkers in the samples provided at a significantly higher rate than the current diagnostic tests. They also report that — just as importantly — the system can indicate correctly a lack of cancer (high specificity) in samples. These two results mean that the need for unnecessary invasive biopsy is reduced.
Follow the dog’s nose
The system works by smelling a patient’s urine — a kind of electronic nose called the Odoreader. The team originally developed a system for bladder cancer following the discovery that dogs could be trained to sniff out cancer — now the electronic nose can sniff out bladder and prostate cancer which is good news for men everywhere.
After sampling the volatiles from a patient’s urine — they are passed through a GC and an analysis of the peaks present can help to determine whether a patient has cancer. The authors of the study are quick to point out that this is just the start and further work needs to be carried out on much larger datasets. Chromatography is regularly used in analysing biological VOCs as discussed in the article, Volatile Organic Compound Determination in Health-related Research: A Review.
With the inspiration coming from dogs — who can say they aren’t man’s best friend.
Image from Wikimedia commons
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