New prostate cancer tests to reduce ops
Thousands of men with prostate cancer could avoid surgery in the future thanks to a genetic discovery.
Men with high levels of certain genes are three times more likely to have a fatal form of prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels, scientists have found.
It is hoped a genetic screening test could be developed to pinpoint how aggressive the disease is, and to predict if prostate cancer will return in men who have been treated.
Doctors would be better able to distinguish aggressive tumours that require treatment from the slow-growing ones that could be monitored.
This could mean thousands of men avoid surgery and side effects like impotence and incontinence, according to the study published in the journal Lancet Oncology.
At present, doctors can struggle to predict how aggressive tumours are and rely on combining factors to create a model for prognosis.
But now researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, have found that men with the highest levels of cell cycle progression (CCP) genes -- ones that encourage cells to grow -- are more likely to have the worst type of cancer.
These genes were an even stronger predictor of disease than the commonly used prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, although PSA still played an important role.
PSA is a chemical produced by the prostate and levels are often raised when a man has prostate cancer.
The study, funded by Cancer Research, found that, for patients who had surgery to remove their prostate, those with the highest CCP levels were 70pc more likely to have a recurrence of the disease.
If the results are confirmed in large clinical trials, experts hope a test for CCP gene expression could be used routinely alongside the PSA test.
Dr Lesley Walker, of Cancer Research UK, said: "This is important research that could one day help solve one of the biggest problems in prostate cancer treatment. For some men, detecting prostate cancer early could be lifesaving. For others, it could mean unnecessary treatment and side effects."