A new test for prostate cancer that only requires a urine sample, to be collected at home, is being developed by scientists.
Currently there is no single definitive test for prostate cancer, but the NHS says a GP is likely to take a blood sample to look for antigens or perform a rectal exam, or even an MRI scan, which it says can cause “unnecessary anxiety” and stress in men.
The new test, known as the Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) test, being developed by the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University hospital, would “revolutionise” diagnosis.
The at-home collection kit is not only more accessible but also more sensitive than current methods, able to pick up how aggressive the disease is and at what point men will need treatment.
The test would be used for men suspected of having cancer to determine which men have aggressive or intermediate levels of the disease, as well as ruling out those who don’t have it.
It would also be suitable for men already diagnosed with low risk disease and are on active surveillance, known as a “watch and wait” approach.
For those men on “watch and wait” the test could cut the rate of follow-up appointments from once a year to once every two to three years.
The test works by taking the first urine of the day, which provides biomarker levels from the prostate that are much more consistent than at other times.
They found that urine samples taken at home showed biomarkers for the cancer much more clearly than a rectal examination. And, lead researcher Dr Jeremy Clark, says that at-home test was “preferable” according to feedback from participants.
At present, the tests available mean medics can struggle to identify those patients with an aggressive form of prostate cancer who need immediate treatment from those who are low risk and put on active surveillance.”
The research team say that their findings could also help pioneer the development of at-home collection tests for bladder and kidney cancer.
Simon Grieveson, head of research funding at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This new test is early in its development, but has the potential to offer a simple, non-invasive way of predicting aggressive prostate cancer without the need for men to attend a clinic.”
Around 48,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK, and more than 11,000 die from it.
Prostate Cancer UK has awarded more funding to UEA to continue clinical trials looking into the test.