New York: Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio are working towards developing a non-invasive method to detect prostate cancer through urine sample.
Since cells from the prostate are shed into urine naturally, the new method, which aims to make use of a novel microscope based on a photonic crystal bio-sensor, could offer a more accurate diagnosis.
“The system we are developing utilises a sensitive bio-sensor, which allows us to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells based on a unique feature of the cells,” said Jing Yong Ye, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).
“If you can detect a cancer cell, you’re starting from a more precise place and you can give a more accurate diagnosis,” he added in a statement released by UTSA.
To support the development of this non-invasive method of detecting prostate cancer, the US National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute has offered Ye a two-year grant of $354,617.
The new method could significantly improve accuracy compared to the approach used in current clinical practice.
Prostate cancer is the second most prevalent type of cancer, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, in men. Early detection is key to survival, which is why doctors are required to screen all men over the age of 50 for the disease.
To screen patients for prostate cancer, medical professionals take a blood sample and look for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). If a high level of PSA is found, the patient is suspected to have prostate cancer and required to have a prostate biopsy.
Unfortunately, PSA tests are far from providing satisfactory diagnoses and result in a large number of unnecessary prostate biopsies due to a high false-positive rate.
This is because PSA elevation may also occur in men with infection and chronic inflammation or benign prostatic hyperplasia.
“False positive diagnoses are very common in prostate cancer tests,” Ye said.
“As a result, a patient may undergo a biopsy he doesn’t need, which is painful and could cause an infection. Also, because prostate cancer is highly heterogeneous and even multi-core prostate biopsy only samples a few local areas, it can easily be missed by clinicians,” he added.
Since about 70 percent of men who go through the biopsy process are found to be cancer-free, Ye wanted to look for a better way.
“We need to use every weapon in our arsenal to attack this disease,” Ye said.
“It’s important to think outside the box and use innovation to address these critical issues,” he added.