A team from Cancer Research UK have discovered that the presence of a specific protein (NAALADL2) can distinguish between prostate cancers that are aggressive and need further treatment from those that may never seriously harm the patient.
The study found much higher levels of the protein in prostate cancer tissue compared with healthy tissue. The difference was especially marked in aggressive tumours and cancer cells that had already spread around the body.
By studying two independent patient groups the team were able to confirm that the protein could be used to diagnose prostate cancer. After years of trying to unlock the secret of which prostate cancers are life-threatening – so-called ‘tigers’, and which are essentially harmless – the ‘pussycats’, this new discovery could revolutionise how doctors treat the disease.
Lead author, Dr Hayley Whitaker, CRUK-CI, said: “If clinical trials confirm our results then it could help clinicians to tell which patients have a more aggressive tumour and need proportionally aggressive treatment, while sparing patients with low grade tumours unnecessary radiotherapy or surgery. This is an important step along the path to developing a much-sought after test that could distinguish between different types of prostate cancer.”
You can read the paper in Oncogene here