New prostate cancer test developed

Research led by team from UCD
  • Deborah Condon

A new test, which could help save the lives of people with prostate cancer, has been developed by an Irish-led team of researchers.

Cancer researchers at University College Dublin (UCD) have led the development of this new test, which uses urine to detect prostate cancer. Studies have so far found that the test is 70% more specific at picking up prostate cancer compared to the blood test that is currently used by doctors to detect the disease.

According to the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), which supported the research, if the ‘epiCaPture' test is further validated, it could help to accurately identify which men need invasive tests, and which men do not. This means that men who do not need such tests could be spared potentially harsh treatments, which can produce long-term side-effects.

The test may also help to identify aggressive prostate cancer early, which could lead to more people being cured of the disease.

Around 3,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Ireland and one-third of these cases are aggressive forms of the disease. Some 500 men die from it annually.

According to Dr Robert O'Connor, Head of Cancer Research at the ICS, this new research ‘highlights the vital work world-class cancer researchers are doing in UCD and across Ireland to identify new ways to improve the diagnosis of cancer'.

"More work is needed before the potential benefits reach cancer patients, but it does show the potential we have to save more lives from this disease," he commented.

Dr O'Connor emphasised that the ICS can only invest in vital research like this because of the generous support of the public.

"We currently fund more than 100 researchers across Ireland and are on track to invest €30 million into life-saving cancer research in the decade up to 2020. But we could fund even more research if we had the funds," he noted.

He called on people to support the ICS's biggest annual fundraiser, Daffodil Day, which takes place on Friday (March 22), as some of the money raised will be used to support research.

This prostate cancer research was part of an international collaboration, which was led by Dr Antoinette Perry of UCD. She pointed out that this type of cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in Ireland and early detection is vital.

"Unfortunately, the tests we have to detect prostate cancer are not entirely accurate. Our research, funded with the support of the ICS and others, is addressing this problem by developing new ways to catch aggressive, potentially lethal prostate cancer from a simple urine test," she explained.

Dr Perry said that over the last four years, the UCD team has worked with doctors, nurses, patients and other scientists from around Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada to study urine from almost 500 men.

"We showed that almost 90% of men with aggressive prostate cancer have changes in their DNA that we could find in their urine. These changes were absent in healthy men and men with non-aggressive disease. If we can replicate these findings, our research could contribute to a new, more accurate test to help catch aggressive prostate cancer and save lives from this disease," she added.

Dr Perry is currently working with UCD's technology transfer team at NovaUCD to bring this test to market. She was recently awarded Enterprise Ireland funding to validate the epiCaPture technology, in the hope that it will be ready for use by doctors to test men for prostate cancer in the coming years.

For more information on Daffodil Day, click here


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