Two new tests to help detect prostate cancer sooner

Just last month actor Ryan O’Neal and billionaire Warren Buffet revealed they have prostate cancer. They're among 225,000 men diagnosed with it every year. It kills 30,000 men annually. Better testing to detect it earlier could save a lot of lives.

There are two new tests aiming to do just that. Prostate cancer is the number two killer of men, second only to lung cancer. 1 in 6 men will get it. 1 in 36 will die from it. Those numbers haven't increased or decreased in the last ten years, but how the cancer's treated has changed.

Prostate cancer patient Dan Zenka describes his case of prostate cancer, "Mine was a more aggressive form or appeared to be a more aggressive form of prostate cancer."

A PSA test is what most men get to determine their risk. But Dan Zenka found out he had prostate cancer through the next generation of tests, a pro PSA test.

PSA is found in the blood. High levels could indicate cancer. The new test measures three different levels in the blood. Combined with annual biopsies it was 70 percent accurate in singling out tumors.

Urologist from Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine William Catalona, MD, explains how it can give some people a fighting chance. "It can give you a more accurate estimate of whether or not he has prostate cancer."

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Michigan believe a new urine test is more accurate.

Urologist at the University of Michigan Health System John T. Wei, MD, MS, explains what the PSA test is showing. "PSA, you have to understand, stands for prostate specific antigen. It actually is not specific for cancer. So when your doctor says it abnormal, it could be because you have an enlarged prostate, prostate inflammation or cancer."

The urine test works by identifying gene fusions that occur when pieces of two chromosomes stick together. These fusions are common in prostate cancer.

The urine test identified 80 percent of patients with it.

Dr. Wei, MD, MS, says, "It's going to make my life easier, if not put me out of business."

Right now the pro PSA test is waiting for FDA approval. It's already approved in Europe.

Meanwhile the American Cancer Society says at age 50, men should start to talk to their doctor about the pros and cons of testing. But African American men or men who have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before the age of 65, should be tested at 45.


REPORT: MB # 3462
BACKGROUND: Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in a man's prostate. It is one of the most frequent forms of cancer affecting men. About one in every six men will be diagnosed with this disease sometime during the course of his life. (SOURCE:

PREVENTION: Here are a few ways men can lower their risk of prostate cancer:
• Eat fewer calories or exercise more so that you maintain a healthy weight.
• Try to keep the amount of fat you get from red meat and dairy products to a minimum.
• Watch your calcium intake. Do not take supplemental doses far above the recommended daily allowance. Some calcium is OK, but avoid taking more than 1,500 mg of calcium a day.
• Eat more fish - evidence from several studies suggest that fish can help protect against prostate cancer because they have "good fat" particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid trans fatty acids (found in margarine).
• Try to incorporate cooked tomatoes that are cooked with olive oil, which has also been shown to be beneficial, and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) into many of your weekly meals. Soy and green tea are also potential dietary components that may be helpful. (Source:
GOING PRO! PSA testing is one step in early identification of prostate tumors, but PSA testing can miss some cancers, or produce a false positive. A study published in the Journal of Urology, followed 900 patients from 10 sites. The results showed the new screening test, a simple blood test called the Pro-PSA test, is particularly useful for patients with a normal prostate exam whose PSA is 2 to 10, a range considered the diagnostic gray zone.

The Pro-PSA test measures a more specific PSA subform called (-2) Pro-PSA. The test becomes even more accurate when its results are analyzed with a mathematical formula that provides an overall Prostate Health Index. The formula divides the Pro-PSA number by the free-PSA, then multiplies the quotient of the two by the square root of the total PSA. (Source: Journal of Urology)

NEW TESTING! The urine test looks for a genetic change that occurs in some prostate cancers, and its results could be used to separate men into high-, intermediate- and low-risk groups. The new urine test could be given after a man has been found high PSA levels to guide the decision about whether a biopsy should be done. The test is based on work published in a 2005 study by the same researchers that identified a genetic change present in 50 percent of prostate cancers that were identified by a PSA screening test.

By combining the new urine test with a test for prostate specific antigen 3, the researchers could tell if a man has prostate cancer better than they can with only a PSA test, the study said. The researchers screened more than 1,000 men with the new test and based on the results, separated them into low-, intermediate-, and high-risk groups. Subsequent biopsies resulted in a cancer diagnosis in 21 percent, 43 percent and 69 percent of men in these groups, respectively. (Source: MSNBC)


Marla Paul
Senior Health Sciences Editor
University Relations
Northwestern University

Katie Vloet
Lead Public Relations Representative
University of Michigan Health System

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