A urine sample may be able to detect prostate cancer and save lives, research supported by the Irish Cancer Society has shown.
Researchers at University College Dublin have led the development of the simple urine test, which is 70% more specific for prostate cancer than the blood test currently used by doctors.
If the new ‘epiCaPture’ test is further validated, it could more accurately identify the men who do not need invasive tests, so they are spared the long-term side-effects of harsh treatments.
The test could also help to identify aggressive prostate cancer early, so more patients can be potentially cured.
In Ireland, 3,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually. One in three of these cases will be aggressive cancers, and around 500 men die from the disease every year.
The development of a new indicator for prostate cancer is part of an international collaboration, led by Antoinette Perry, assistant professor of cell biology and genetics at the UCD Schoool of Biology and Environmental Science and the UCD Conway Insititute.
Over the last four years, the research team at UCD has worked with doctors, nurses, patients, and other scientists from around Ireland, Britain, the US, and Canada to study urine from 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,” said Dr Perry.
“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.”
Dr Perry is currently working with UCD’s technology transfer team at NovaUCD to bring the test to market.
She has recently been 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.
Head of cancer research at the Irish Cancer Society, Robert O’Connor, said more work was needed before the benefits of the test reached patients.
“But it does show the potential we have to save more lives from this disease,” said Dr O’Connor.
The charity is calling on the public to support Daffodil Day, this Friday, to fund more life-saving cancer research.
“We currently fund more than 100 researchers across Ireland and are on track to invest €30m in life-saving cancer research in the decade up to 2020,” said Dr O’Connor.