How far are we from another test?
How far are we from developing another test for prostate cancer diagnosis?
Professor Cory Abate-Shen, University of Columbia, USA:
I would have to say that the answer is, we're not far away from developing more and more tests for diagnosis. But what we are probably in very serious need of is to understand how effective those tests are. And I think that's really the critical distinction. So really the proof is going to be in the pudding as to how important and how relevant these new tests are. I think this will play out within the next five years or so, because prostate cancer is a quite slow growing tumour, which means that the tests take longer to get the right kind of validation. The other thing that I think is critical is to really compare the tests back to back. But this can be hard to do because of intellectual property issues. So something that Prostate Cancer UK could do is to provide resources to allow these tests to be evaluated - sequentially or together - to compare them. Because I don't think that's something that's going to be funded by most government institutions, and certainly not by companies who have a vested interest in their test being the best.
Dr Hayley Whitaker, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute:
So when we're testing for prostate cancer, and looking for a diagnostic test, there are lots of different ways we can do it. We can try and look for a blood test or we can try and look for a urine test. And actually there's been huge advances in the last five years of finding potential new markers that we can detect in those different fluids to try and diagnose prostate cancer better. I think the key thing to remember is that although we say PSA isn't very good, it actually isn’t that bad. What we need to do next is to combine new markers with PSA to actually make it a better test. And with the huge advances we've made recently, we've got some really good markers going forward that are likely to make a huge difference. I think that probably within the next five to ten years we'll see something coming through that will be an improvement on the PSA test.
In terms of a urine marker, it's slightly more difficult, because we all know that when you have a wee, your urine can be different strengths. And so we have to sort of standardise our test according to concentration, which adds a little bit more complication. So although it's a very accessible fluid, there are a few complications in working with it. But actually I’m working as part of a large Movember funded consortium looking at lots of markers all at the same time, and I think that something very fruitful will come out. Possibly a little bit longer than an improved blood test, but maybe in the next ten years.
Read more about the PSA test.