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9 December, 2019 - 10:06 By Kate Sweeney

Home urine test for prostate cancer could revolutionise diagnosis

A simple urine test being developed to detect prostate cancer can now use samples collected at home thanks to new research from the University of East Anglia and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Scientists pioneered the test which diagnoses aggressive prostate cancer and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods.

Their latest study shows how the ‘PUR’ test (Prostate Urine Risk) could be performed on samples collected at home, so men don’t have to come into the clinic to provide a urine sample – or have to undergo an uncomfortable rectal examination.

This is an important step forward, because the first urination of the day provides biomarker levels from the prostate that are much higher and more consistent. And the research team hope that the introduction of the ‘At-Home Collection Kit’ could revolutionise diagnosis of the disease.

Lead researcher Dr Jeremy Clark, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It usually develops slowly and the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man’s lifetime. 

“However, doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men.

“The most commonly used tests for prostate cancer include blood tests, a physical examination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or a biopsy.

“We developed the PUR test, which looks at gene expression in urine samples and provides vital information about whether a cancer is aggressive or ‘low risk’.

“Because the prostate is constantly secreting, the collection of urine from men’s first urination of the day means that the biomarker levels from the prostate are much higher and more consistent, so this is a great improvement.

“Being able to simply provide a urine sample at home and post a sample off for analysis could really revolutionise diagnosis.

“It means that men would not have to undergo a digital rectal examination, so it would be much less stressful and should result in a lot more patients being tested.”

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital receives more than 800 referrals a year to investigate and treat potential prostate cancers. 

Robert Mills, consultant surgeon in urology at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “This is a very exciting development as this test gives us the possibility of differentiating those who do from those who do not have prostate cancer so avoiding putting a lot of men through unnecessary investigations.

“When we do diagnose prostate cancer, the urine test has the potential to differentiate those who need to have treatment from those who do not need treatment, which would be invaluable. 

“These patients go on to an active surveillance programme following the diagnosis which may involve repeat biopsies and MRI scans which is quite intrusive. This urine test has the potential to tell us whether we needed to intervene with these patients.”

The research team say that their findings could also help pioneer the development of home-collection tests for bladder or kidney cancer.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Robert Mills, consultant surgeon in urology at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture courtesy of Spire Healthcare

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