New prostate cancer test is 94% accurate and could stop unnecessary biopsies, researchers say

The new blood test can pick up signals of cancer. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Researchers have developed a new test for prostate cancer which they say is 94% accurate.

Oxford BioDynamics, in collaboration with Imperial College and the University of East Anglia (UEA), found that when combining the blood test with a standard prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, more cases could be detected.

The PSA test, which is currently widely used in the NHS, does not have sufficient accuracy, the team said in their findings in the journal Cancers.

This has been resulting in numerous unnecessary prostate biopsies in men with no cancer and “false reassurance in some men with cancer”.

The researchers developed a new chromosomal test, which can pick up signals of cancer and combined it with the regular PSA test.

A pilot study of 147 patients evaluated the new test and found it significantly improved detection of the disease.

All the men in the study had prostate cancer and the test was 94% accurate.

The next stage of research will be to use the test, called PSE, on a group of men where the cancer status is unknown.

The team wrote: “This new PSE test is accurate, rapid, minimally invasive and inexpensive. If successful in larger trials, it may significantly improve prostate cancer diagnosis.”

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Professor Dmitry Pshezhetskiy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and kills one man every 45 minutes in the UK.

“There is currently no single test for prostate cancer, but PSA blood tests are among the most used, alongside physical examinations, MRI scans and biopsies.

“However, PSA blood tests are not routinely used to screen for prostate cancer, as results can be unreliable.

“Only about a quarter of people who have a prostate biopsy due to an elevated PSA level are found to have prostate cancer.

“There has therefore been a drive to create a new blood test with greater accuracy.

“When tested in the context of screening a population at risk, the PSE test yields a rapid and minimally invasive prostate cancer diagnosis with impressive performance.

"This suggests a real benefit for both diagnostic and screening purposes.”

Dr Jon Burrows, chief executive at Oxford Biodynamics, said: “There is a clear need in everyday clinical practice for a highly accurate blood test that can screen men for prostate cancer and accurately identify those at risk, while sparing those who up to now would be subject to unnecessary, expensive and invasive procedures.”

Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

  • Frequent urination

  • Weak or interrupted urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder

  • The urge to urinate frequently at night

  • Blood in the urine

  • New onset of erectile dysfunction

  • Pain or burning during urination - which is much less common

What should you do if you are worried?

  • There is no way of knowing if you have prostate cancer without visiting your doctor, as most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms.

  • If you do have symptoms they can be caused by other things. You can’t check for prostate cancer yourself.

  • Speak to your GP if you're over 50, or over 45 if you have a family history of prostate cancer or are a black man, even if you don't have any symptoms