New prostate cancer biomarkers provide hope to millions of men

Prostate cancer is one of the most prevalent types of cancer in men worldwide, affecting millions of individuals each year. It occurs in the prostate gland, a small walnut-shaped organ that produces seminal fluid just below the bladder. 

Prostate cancer typically develops slowly and may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. However, advanced prostate cancer can be aggressive and life-threatening. While the causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood, age, family history, race, and certain genetic factors have been identified as risk factors. 

An article published by the University of South Australia on 19 July 2023, revealed a potentially groundbreaking discovery. Researchers at the university have found new biomarkers that could make it easier to tell how aggressive prostate cancer is in around 40% of cases.

Importance of early diagnosis

As the second most common cancer in men, prostate cancer poses a significant health challenge that requires comprehensive research and improved diagnostic approaches. 

In Australia, about 17,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. It mostly affects older men and is not common in men who are younger than 50 years old.

If you have a close family member (like a father or brother) who had prostate cancer, your chances of getting it are much higher. The risk is even greater if your relative was diagnosed with prostate cancer before they turned 60 years old. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, please consult with a healthcare professional.

Symptoms to look out for

Detecting prostate cancer early is vital for successful treatment. In the beginning, prostate cancer might not cause any signs that you can notice. But when it does show symptoms, they can include: 

  • Difficulty passing urine

  • A slow, interrupted flow of urine

  • Frequent passing of urine, including at night

  • Incontinence

When prostate cancer becomes more advanced, you might notice these symptoms:

  • Blood in urine

  • Pain during urination

  • Lower back or pelvic pain

If you experience any symptoms or fall into a high-risk category, consult a healthcare professional for appropriate screening and evaluation.

What do the new biomarkers mean?

Biomarkers are specific biological substances or indicators found in the body that can be measured and used to assess various biological processes or conditions. These markers can be molecules like proteins, DNA, RNA, or even specific cells or hormones. Biomarkers provide valuable information about the presence, progression, or severity of a disease, as well as the response to treatment. 

The study published by the University of South Australia demonstrated the identification of new prostate cancer biomarkers that hold promise for improved diagnostic accuracy and treatment decisions. These biomarkers were found to be highly specific to prostate cancer and showed potential in distinguishing aggressive forms of the disease from less aggressive ones. As further research is conducted, these biomarkers could be integrated into routine clinical practice, allowing for better risk stratification and treatment selection.

​​Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, deputy vice-chancellor of research and enterprise at the University of South Australia, told the Financial Review “This technology represents a shift in grading prostate cancer and could be ‘life-saving’.”

Doug Brooks, professor of molecular medicine at the University of South Australia who headed the team, said “These biomarkers have 95 percent sensitivity [true positive] and specificity [true negative], so prostate tissue can be accurately visualised and mapped.”

“Currently, pathologists look at slides of tissue under a microscope and determine the grade of the cancer by interpreting the morphology – the shape, structure and form – of the tissue. Morphological interpretation is subjective with about 20 percent of grading being too high and 20 being too low, potentially mis-grading about 40 percent of patients. The biomarkers show what’s happening to particular molecules within the tissue. We target these as critical control points for the pathogenic process that the cancer is using to operate.”

“They provide information about what the cancer is doing. The first biomarker gives us the architecture and detects all the cancer. The other two give us information about its stage. Is it early or late?”

These findings led to a laboratory test that was launched in the US earlier this month but is not available in Australia yet. Professor Brooks hopes that they can conduct similar tests in Australia soon.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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