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Avoiding Prostate Biopsy

New Approach Predicts When Invasive Test Not Needed
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Reporting in the Oct. 16 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the researchers find that the test correctly predicted prostate cancer in 36 of 38 patients. It correctly said there was no cancer in nearly eight out of 10 cases. Perhaps most significant were the findings for men whose PSA test was hard to interpret -- those with marginally elevated PSA scores. Nearly all of such men opt for biopsies. The proteomic test could tell with more than 70% accuracy whether they had cancer or not.

Prostate specialist Mark S. Litwin, MD, MPH, associate professor of Urology at UCLA, says the test "heralds a new era in prostate cancer screening."

"Nonetheless, controversy over prostate cancer screening will remain until we are able to ascertain which tumors actually need to be diagnosed [by biopsy] and which do not," Litwin tells WebMD.

Jay Brooks, MD, chair of hematology and oncology at the Ochsner Clinic in Baton Rouge, La., warns that the proteomic profile test must be studied in larger, independent trials. Even then, the test still will leave patients with hard choices to make.

"If this finding in prostate cancer holds up, you could say to a patient, 'There is a 71% chance you do not have cancer,'" says Brooks. "Many people will take that number and say, 'I don't want a biopsy. Others will say, 'That 30% chance of cancer scares me, so I will have a biopsy.' But it always helps if you can give patients more information to tell them what the chances are of having or not having a disease."

Levine says Correlogic is pushing forward with clinical trials. And stay tuned, he says: proteomic profiling can be used to hear what your body is saying about many other diseases.

"We are working on breast cancer and we are working on pancreatic cancer," Levine says. "We have recently announced a research agreement with Johns Hopkins University looking at vasculitis, Wagner's disease, and lupus. The applications are limitless. It goes beyond early diagnosis to evaluation of drug treatment and drug discovery." -->

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