Thursday, February 28, 2008

New method to test spread of prostate cancer

One of the big questions after a confirmed diagnosis of prostate cancer is whether the tumor has spread outside the walls of the prostate.

This is often difficult to predict, because the spread is sometimes at the microscopic level and therefore not visible on CT scans or other imaging tests. Often the patient doesn't know for sure until the prostate and adjacent lymph nodes are removed and examined in the lab.

Current methods of combining the results of PSA tests, staging, and rectal exams is accurate in predicting spread of the cancer in 89% of cases. Knowing whether the cancer has spread would give doctors and patients a better idea how to proceed with treatment.

Now researchers say a blood test for endoglin, a plasma biomarker, can increase the accuracy of predicting the spread of prostate cancer to 97.8%. Endoglin is used to predict the spread of colon and breast cancer.

The results of the study were published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, and summarized at Science Daily.

In spite of the results of this study, researchers say there were limits to the study and more work needs to be done before it can be used clinically.

If the endoglin test can be successfully used, however, then not only will patients have a better idea how to proceed with treatment but it may be unnecessary to remove pelvic lymph nodes in the future.

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