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Simple test identifies prostate cancer 'fingerprint'

Tuesday March 10th, 2020

A simple blood test can identify the ‘fingerprint’ of prostate cancer, which could transform the way doctors monitor tumour behaviour, it was announced last night.

Researchers at UCL Cancer Institute, London, UK, used Next Generation Sequencing to establish if they could identify prostate cancer DNA in blood plasma and say their discovery represents an early circulating biomarker, which can detect when the cancer is active and spreading.

They say their findings mean the liquid biopsy could be used to monitor cancer response to treatment regularly and in real-time.

The researchers say they hope their test could eventually replace the existing prostate specific antigen test.

Dr Anjui Wu, lead author of UCL Cancer Institute, said: “Metastatic prostate cancer – the most dangerous late stage of the disease – can vary substantially in its treatment response and clinical progression.

“We urgently need biomarkers that will help us determine how far along each patient’s cancer is, to determine the best course of treatment.

“With tumour biopsies difficult to obtain, being able to identify prostate cancer DNA signatures at the earliest opportunity in blood will help monitor patients better and assist more effective treatment selection and combination.”

Writing in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, the research team describe how they investigated DNA methylation from 25 metastatic prostate cancer patients, concurrently profiled using NGS. Four healthy blood plasma samples were also analysed as a control.

The research group identified circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) methylations and they found thousands of methylation changes specific to the prostate gland in blood samples from men with prostate cancer.

They then developed these changes into a signature for tracking prostate genetic material in blood to monitor cancer activity.

Corresponding author Professor Gert Attard, of UCL Cancer Institute, said they will test the new technique in trial patients to see if it can complement or substitute the traditional serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) for diagnosis, risk assignment and monitoring.

“We believe the increased sensitivity and additional information we derive, will significantly improve the outcomes of men with advanced prostate cancer,” he added.

Wu A, Cremaschi P, Wetterskog D et al. Genome-wide plasma DNA methylation features of metastatic prostate cancer The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 9 March 2020.

https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI130887

Tags: Cancer | Men's Health | UK News

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