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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 10:58 GMT
Better prostate cancer test hope
Prostate images
The current prostate cancer test is far from perfect, experts say
Scientists believe they have identified an improved test for prostate cancer.

A blood test is currently used to diagnose prostate cancer - the most common cancer in men - but it is far from 100% accurate.

The University of Sunderland Pharmacy School and Sunderland City Hospitals NHS Trust team said their urine test could be more accurate and faster.

The researchers are now planning to expand their clinical trials to confirm the accuracy of the test.

The urine test, which is being developed for GPs, measures the levels of a biological marker, which the team believes gives an indication of the likelihood of the cancer developing.

The researchers say they cannot reveal what the marker is due to commercial sensitivities.

We have been hoping for a more reliable cancer-specific test to be developed and if this proves successful, it will be welcomed by everyone
John Neate, of the Prostate Cancer Charity

Prostate cancer affects 27,000 men in the UK each year - a fifth of all new cancer diagnoses - killing 10,000.

The blood test which is currently used measures the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA), but the problem is that some men with prostate cancer do not have a raised PSA and some men with a raised PSA do not have prostate cancer.

For every 100 men with a raised PSA, only about a third will have any cancer cells in their prostate.

More than 50m is spent each year on treating prostate cancer but the concern is that men many be undergoing unnecessary biopsies because the PSA test has given a falsely positive result.

Keith Morris, a member of the team working on the urine test, said: "It is early days yet, but initial results are promising.

"Like all these projects, they don't happen overnight and there are hurdles to overcome before the new test ca be marketed.


"If however, as anticipated, it makes it to market, it will offer a hugely improve test for prostate cancer than will save many lives in the future."

Prostate Cancer Charity chief executive John Neate said it was an "exciting" development.

"We are aware that the traditional blood test can give false-positive results and may mean that men go for unnecessary biopsies.

"If the new test can reduce this by its accuracy, then we welcome its advance.

"We have been hoping for a more reliable cancer-specific test to be developed and if this proves successful, it will be welcomed by everyone.

"But men must remember that this trial is still in its infancy and unfortunately we will have to wait at least 18 months until more definitive results are known.

"It is also unclear if this test will be able to monitor men who have already been treated for prostate cancer."

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