New PSA test predicts if prostate cancer will return

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New research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the University International Institute for Nanotechnology shows that an ultrasensitive PSA test using nanoparticle-based technology (VeriSens? PSA, Nanosphere, Inc., research-use-only) may be able to definitively predict after surgery if the cancer is cured long term or if it will recur.

Current tests that measure the level of protein called PSA (prostate-specific antigen), which signals the presence of cancer, often detect no PSA, only to have cancer return in up to 40 percent of the cases.

The new ultrasensitive PSA test, which is based upon assays invented at Northwestern in the laboratories of co-principal investigator Chad A. Mirkin, is 300 times more sensitive than currently available commercial tests and can detect a very low level of PSA that indicates the cancer has spread beyond the prostate. The test also may pick up cancer recurrence at a much earlier stage, when secondary treatment is most effective for a patient’s survival.

“This test may provide early and more accurate answers,” said co-principal investigator C. Shad Thaxton, M.D., an assistant professor of urology at Feinberg and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. “It detects PSA at levels in the blood that cannot be detected by conventional tests. It may allow physicians to act at the earliest and most sensitive time, which we know will provide the patient with the best chance of long- term survival.”

This ability to quickly detect very low levels of PSA may enable doctors to diagnose men with prostate cancer recurrence years earlier than is currently possible. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men in the United States.

Not only may the new test more accurately predict the course of the disease, it also gives an early indication of whether secondary treatments, such as radiation and hormone therapy, are working. If not, then doctors can quickly begin alternative treatment and refer patients to clinical trials.

The study results will be presented June 2 at the American Urological Association 2010 Annual Meeting. These and the results of other Northwestern PSA studies will be presented at the meeting by Lee Zhao, Dae Kim and Hannah Alphs, urology residents at Feinberg.

Source: Northwestern University, USA

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