A home prostate cancer test that is considerably more comfortable and less stressful than current methods has been found to be more effective than a standard diagnostic test.
Developed and tested by scientists at the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) test can be used on urine samples collected at home.
Furthermore, research by the scientists has found that it is more accurate than a rectal examination, which, although uncomfortable and stressful, is the current standard method.
The researchers believe the test could “revolutionise diagnosis” because it will make it far easier to differentiate which prostate cancers need treatment without subjecting patients to unpleasant or invasive tests. As the condition is often slow to develop, many cases do not need to be treated, but it is vital to determine those that do.
“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It usually develops slowly and the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man’s lifetime. However, doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men,” explained Dr Jeremy Clark, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.
“The most commonly used tests for prostate cancer include blood tests, a physical examination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or a biopsy.
“We developed the PUR test, which looks at gene expression in urine samples and provides vital information about whether a cancer is aggressive or ‘low risk’.”
Home prostate cancer test “could really revolutionise diagnosis”
The research, which saw 14 participants use an At Home Collection Kit for prostate cancer biomarkers as well as a digital rectal examination for comparison, found that the home test was more accurate.
“We found that the urine samples taken at home showed the biomarkers for prostate cancer much more clearly than after a rectal examination. And feedback from the participants showed that the at home test was preferable,” said Clark.
“Because the prostate is constantly secreting, the collection of urine from men’s first urination of the day means that the biomarker levels from the prostate are much higher and more consistent, so this is a great improvement.”
If use of the kit becomes widespread, it could have profound benefits both for patients and for the healthcare system.
“Being able to simply provide a urine sample at home and post a sample off for analysis could really revolutionise diagnosis,” explained Clark.
“It means that men would not have to undergo a digital rectal examination, so it would be much less stressful and should result in a lot more patients being tested.”
Notably, the home test could be particularly beneficial for those who have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer but who do not need active treatment.
“Using our At Home test could in future revolutionise how those on ‘active surveillance’ are monitored for disease progression, with men only having to visit the clinic for a positive urine result. This is in contrast to the current situation where men are recalled to the clinic every six to 12 months for painful and expensive biopsies,” he said.
“Because the PUR test accurately predicts aggressive prostate cancer, and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods, it means that a negative test could enable men to only be retested every two to three years, relieving stress to the patient and reducing hospital workload.”
The latest research is published today in the journal BioTechniques.