New test may detect prostate cancer early with accuracy

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London, May 31 (IANS) Researchers have developed a new type of test that uses complex sugars to detect prostate cancer early and with greater accuracy.
A new test for prostate cancer is urgently needed because current tests are only able to give an indication of increased PSA in blood samples. This can give false-positive results in around 50 per cent of cases.
The test works by identifying sugars, known as glycans, in blood. These sugars are attached to protein molecules called PSA and are known to undergo distinct but subtle changes when cancer is present in the body.
According to the study, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, particular types of glycans are associated with different cancers – but until now, there has been no technology available to detect the glycans in an accurate, timely and sufficiently specific way.
Researchers led by a team in the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering, developed a new technique that can identify glycans associated with cancer with unprecedented accuracy.
It works by using a synthetic carbohydrate material to create a mould of the specific glycan. These ‘receptors’ are then fixed in position on a surface so they bind to that glycan, but not to any others.
“What is really exciting about the technique we’ve developed is the ability to pinpoint glycans with such specificity,” said study author Professor Paula Mendes.
“A PSA molecule can have 56 different sugars attached to it, but only four are associated with prostate cancer. With this test, we’re able to identify those four with certainty,” Mendes added.
According to the researchers, the number of glycans identified in this way will show not only if cancer is present, but how aggressive or advanced the cancer is.
A new test for prostate cancer is urgently needed because current tests are only able to give an indication of increased PSA in blood samples. This can give false-positive results in around 50 per cent of cases.
This is because a man’s PSA level can become elevated for a number of different reasons, not necessarily related to cancer.
In addition, around 25 per cent of men who do have prostate cancer do not have elevated PSA, so the test fails to diagnose these patients.
“Many patients undergoing the PSA test will be falsely diagnosed, causing them to be sent for further, more invasive tests, and this places a lot of stress on the patient, as well as being very expensive for health services,” Mendes said.
“By measuring the glycans, however, we can offer diagnoses that are much more precise, not only detecting cancer at an earlier stage but identifying how aggressive it is too,” Mendes added.
The team hopes to apply the technology to detect other cancers as well, and has already started to develop a test for ovarian cancer.

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