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Researchers Are Using Next Generation Sequencing to Develop New Test for Prostate Cancer

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Prostate Cancer

When it comes to diagnosing cancer, doctors want to have access to tests there are as sensitive and precise as possible. Unfortunately, in some cases, imaging tests or biopsies will not always detect aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

With that in mind, researchers based at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center have created a new multi-biomarker test  that is designed to detect aggressive forms of prostate cancer. This urine-based test is called the Urine Prostate Seq test (UPSeq). According to Michigan Medicine, the UPSeq has been performing better than current biomarker tests, at least during the first pre-clinical evaluation that the researchers have conducted.

That’s good news for patients and their loved ones, who will benefit from earlier detection and diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Using Next Generation Sequencing for the UPSeq Test

To scan through large amounts of genetic information during a medical diagnosis, scientists are using high-speed, high-capacity computer systems for next generation sequencing. 

The University of Michigan researchers are using NGS to study urine that they have collected from male patients after a digital rectal exam. They collected urine samples to perform a so-called “liquid biopsy,” which has proven to be better than standard prostate-specific antigen blood tests currently in use.

They are using a type of artificial intelligence called machine learning to help analyze 15 RNA transcripts from each patient’s sample and published their results in European Urology Oncology.

When researchers determine that a man has an elevated PSA level, the next step is to find out if it’s an indicator of prostate cancer. If the patient does have cancer, the doctor will want to find out if it’s the aggressive form of prostate cancer. What is complicating the matter is the fact that patients can have multiple areas of cancer in their prostate. So, getting a small sample from one area only of the prostate may not give the most accurate results about what type of cancer the patient has.

Because of this, biopsies, as well as MRI scans, can fail to detect aggressive prostate cancer. Using a liquid biopsy from a urine sample will give doctors a much better idea of what’s happening inside the entire prostate in terms of oncology.

Benefit to Patients and Potential Benefit to Their Families

Because the next generation sequencing technology that the University of Michigan researchers are using is delving deeper into the patient’s genetics there is an added benefit of the test they can help their families too. 

The researcher’s new test can identify inheritable mutations in the HOXB13 gene, and if present, could indicate an added level of risk for other members of that patient’s family. So, the same next generation sequencing technology that helped to identify the nature of the patient’s prostate cancer and how aggressive it is could also be helpful in screening other relatives, to help reduce cancer rates in the population.

More Research Is Needed Into the New Prostate Cancer Detection Test

There are multiple potential clinical applications for this new test, according to the researchers. Being able to detect aggressive cancer batch earlier and doing it right from the point of the biopsy is one clear potential benefit. 

Use of NGS technology also can help doctors rule out cases of severe or aggressive disease more readily. This matters because it will affect whether your patients will need to come in for ongoing tests, biopsies, and imaging studies, which can delay treatment in the presence of a potentially fast-moving and aggressive prostate cancer that was not correctly diagnosed.

Keep in mind that the new aggressive prostate cancer detection research that the Michigan University team is conducting is still in the early phases. Looking forward, the researchers anticipate doing more tests to validate their approach using additional patients.

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