London, Nov 30 : Scientists have developed a novel urine test kit that can help detect prostate cancer risk at home.
The test diagnoses aggressive prostate cancer and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods.
The 'PUR' (Prostate Urine Risk) test 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, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
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.
The research team hopes that the introduction of the 'At-Home Collection Kit' could revolutionise diagnosis of the disease.
"Prostate cancer 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," said lead researcher Dr Jeremy Clark from UEA's Norwich Medical School.
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,'" Clark added.
The research team provided 14 participants with an "At Home Collection Kit", and instructions.
They then compared the results of their home urine samples, taken first thing in the morning, with samples collected after a digital rectal examination.
"We found that the urine samples taken at home showed the biomarkers for prostate cancer much more clearly than after a rectal examination.
And feedback from the participants showed that the at home test was preferable,' the authors wrote in a paper published in the journal BioTechniques.
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, they added.
"Using our At Home test could in future revolutionise how those on 'active surveillance' are monitored for disease progression, with men only having to visit the clinic for a positive urine result.
This is in contrast to the current situation where men are recalled to the clinic every six to 12 months for painful and expensive biopsies," the researchers added.
"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," said Robert Mills, Consultant Surgeon in Urology at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
The research team said the findings could also help pioneer the development of home-collection tests for bladder or kidney cancer too.