A Colorful Test for Prostate Cancer

If you are a man with prostate cancer, you have higher than normal levels of a protein known as AMACR. What's more, that protein has been linked to the aggressiveness of the cancer, and if your levels of AMACR can be lowered, the growth of your prostate cancer will also slow down commensurately.

So measure the AMACR levels of every man newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, right? Sounds like a plan!

...except there has never been a way to easily measure functional levels of AMACR, until now.

Scientists from the University of Bath in the UK have not only created a test for AMACR, but it is simple, inexpensive, and... colorful! A chemical devised by the researchers turns a bright yellow in the presence of the functional protein within minutes.

“One of the important things about our test is that we can now quickly analyze samples and start investigating the development of new treatments based on reducing AMACR function. It will also allow investigation of the underlying biology, which is currently poorly understood. There is also potential for developing the method into a new way of monitoring the cancer. This is an extremely significant step forwards in the field,” said Lead author Dr. Matthew Lloyd, from the U Bath's Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

Using the new test many samples can be analyzed quickly and at the same time, and the functional level of AMACR can be measured much more accurately than by previous methods.

Dr. Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “The development of new treatments to halt the spread of prostate cancer is crucial if we are to stop thousands of men dying from the disease every year. It has been known for some time that a protein called AMACR is involved in prostate cancer development. This makes it an exciting drug target, but until now, it has been difficult to test the effectiveness of potential new drugs on blocking the protein. Dr Lloyd’s research provides a key part of the puzzle which means we can start the process of developing drugs to target AMACR and ultimately fight the disease in men. We are proud to have funded this research and look forward to seeing further developments.”

The research is published in the journal Chemical Communications.