Truth be told, testing for prostate cancer is not the most exact of sciences. There is, in fact, an uncomfortably high number of missed cancers or false positives.
Now German researchers have undertaken to identify new biomarkers for prostate cancer, ones that can offer greater specificity when testing. They may have what they were looking for in urine.
Even more interesting is the fact that the biomarkers may have been hiding in plain sight. RNA serves as part of the bio-system that regulates the production of proteins. The great majority of RNA, however, is what scientists call “non-coding RNA” and was believed (up to only very recently) to have no real useful function.
But the researchers dug a little deeper into the RNA of 64 prostate biopsy samples and discovered a significant difference between tumor and control samples. They discovered more than 2000 genes that showed a significant difference between tumor and control samples.
The biomarkers were also found in the urine samples provided by the test subjects. The scientists are now working on developing a highly specific and sensitive urine-based test for the early diagnosis of prostate cancer.
What's more, one of the non-coding RNAs also showed real promise in halting cancer cell growth. The researchers note, however, that it is too early to know if this will translate into a clinically-useful target.
Professor Manfred Wirth, of the University of Dresden, and author of the study noted:
"This is early work, but it is already showing results. This is a new approach to developing diagnostic tests, and comes from applying real basic science to a practical clinical problem. Given that our initial results show a high specificity for prostate cancer in urine tests, the prospects are good that we will be able to translate this into a better test for prostate cancer. We have several good candidate biomarkers, however we are aiming to design a test which utilizes a combination of biomarkers. This will give significantly better specificity than existing tests. Our work on RNAs is allowing us to design a completely new kind of prostate cancer test."
The research was presented at the European Association of Urology Congress in Munich.