Researchers have made the first steps towards devising a urine test for detecting prostate cancer, according to a paper released by the British journal Nature.
A chemical fingerprint called sarcosine can be found in high levels in the urine of men with aggressive cancer of the prostate, providing a potential biomarker of the disease. Concentrations of sarcosine were high in 79% of samples with metastatic prostate cancer and in 42% of the samples of early-stage cancer, the team found.
The telltale metabolite is a better indicator of advancing disease than a standard blood test, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) assay, according to the research, headed by Arul Chinnaiyan of the University of Michigan, Medical School. The findings have to be confirmed and calibrated independently before the urine test is accepted as a diagnostic tool.
The discovery of sarcosine could also open up new pathways for attacking the disease. By simply adding sarcosine to cultures, the scientists turned benign prostate cells into malignant ones, which suggests the molecule plays an important role in unleashing invasive tumours.
Prostate cancer is the sixth most common form of malign tumours among men, after cancer of the lung, stomach, liver, colo-rectum and oesophagus, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). – (Sapa, February 2009)
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