Breakthrough as routine blood test ‘could detect prostate cancer cases’, new study suggests

By Staff 6 Min Read

The PSA blood test checks the level of prostate-specific antigen, a marker for prostate cancer, but has previously been overlooked due to fears around its reliability

A simple blood test every five years could be enough to detect prostate cancer in low risk patients, a new study has suggested.

New research suggests that the previously overlooked PSA blood test could be an effective and non-invasive way of screening for prostate cancer. The PSA blood test checks the level of prostate-specific antigen, a marker for prostate cancer, but has previously been overlooked due to fears around its reliability.

A new German study, presented at the European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Paris, compared different screening protocols in over 12,500 men. Based on their initial PSA test men were split into low risk, intermediate risk, and high risk categories. When the low risk category was followed up five years later the researchers saw that only 1.2 per cent of these had high levels of PSA, and only 16 out of the 20,000-cohort had cancer.

The team say that their findings suggest the current follow up time of two years is unnecessary and could be extended with minimal risk. Lead researcher, Professor Peter Albers, from the Department of Urology at Heinrich-Heine University Dusseldorf, said: “We enabled 20 per cent more men within our cohort to have a longer gap between tests and very few contracted cancer in that time. With nearly 14 million men aged between 45-50 in Europe, the numbers affected by such a change would be significant.

“Our study is still underway, and we may find that an even longer screening interval, of seven, eight or even ten years, is possible without additional risk.” The researchers hope that their findings could help to better educate government officials on how to fix controversies surrounding prostate screening.

Some of the main issues that the team point out are inequalities in access to early diagnosis and unclear or contradictory guidelines across Europe. Dr Katharina Beyer, from the Department of Urology at the Erasmus MC Cancer Institute in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said: “Some country’s guidelines are actively against screening, others are non-committal and a few, such as Lithuania, have some form of screening.

“But in many countries, if you ask for a test, you can get one, sometimes free and sometimes not. This means that well-educated men, who know about PSA tests are more likely to be screened and get an early diagnosis, while others with less knowledge are at a disadvantage.”

Professor Phillip Cornford, from Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “The NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines here in the UK are incongruous. “They say there’s no evidence that PSA screening is worthwhile, but at the same time say any man can ask for a PSA test if they want it.

“The result is that well-educated, driven men ask and others, including many Afro-Caribbean men who are actually at higher risk, don’t ask and so prostate cancers get missed. There is clearly a need for more organised prostate cancer screening and last November, the UK government and the charity, Prostate UK, announced a £42m research programme to look at this.

“New findings, such as those from the PROBASE trial, can help us design an appropriate screening programme both in the UK and elsewhere.”

Share This Article
Leave a comment