Results of a study recently published in Endocrine-Related Cancer have shown that the presence of certain molecules in seminal fluid indicates not only whether a man has prostate cancer, but also the severity of the cancer. Speaking in the lead-up to Men’s Health Week (9-15 June), University of Adelaide research fellow and lead author Dr Luke Selth, says the commonly used PSA (prostate specific antigen) test is by itself not ideal to test for the cancer.
While the PSA test is very sensitive, it is not highly specific for prostate cancer. This results in many unnecessary biopsies of non-malignant disease. More problematically, PSA testing has resulted in substantial over-diagnosis and over-treatment of slow growing, non-lethal prostate cancers that could have been safely left alone. Biomarkers that can accurately detect prostate cancer at an early stage and identify aggressive tumours are urgently needed to improve patient care. Identification of such biomarkers is a major focus of Dr Selth’s research. (Youtube link)
Dr Selth, a Young Investigator of the Prostate Cancer Foundation (USA), is a member of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health at the University of Adelaide and is based in the University’s Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories.
Using samples from 60 men, Dr Selth and colleagues discovered a number of small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules called microRNAs in seminal fluid that are known to be increased in prostate tumours. The presence of these microRNAs more accurately discriminates between men who had cancer and those who didn’t, compared with a standard PSA test. One specific microRNA, miR-200b, could distinguish between men with low grade and higher grade tumours, opening up opportunities for improved prognostic tool to help to indicate the urgency and type of treatment required.
The research team is now expanding on these studies using larger patient groups to validate their findings.