Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Test Pinpoints Aggressive Prostate Tumors

Goal of New Test Is to Determine Which Men Will and Will Not Need Treatment for Prostate Cancer
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 20, 2010 (Washington, D.C.) -- Researchers are developing a new blood test to help identify which men with early prostate cancer can forgo immediate treatment.

In a small preliminary study, the test proved 70% accurate in predicting which men had more aggressive tumors that require treatment.

The results have yet to be replicated, a necessary step before acceptance by the medical community.

But the test shows promise for safely identifying men who can undergo active surveillance -- close monitoring for signs of tumor growth -- rather than treatment, says Robert W. Veltri, PhD, an associate professor of urology and oncology at Johns Hopkins University.

"The goal of the new test, which measures blood levels of three different forms of PSA, is to determine who will and who will not progress and require treatment," Veltri says.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Prostate Cancer: To Treat or Not?

To treat or not to treat is one of the most difficult dilemmas facing men with prostate cancer, especially men with early, localized cancer that is contained within the prostate, when it is curable.

Because prostate cancer often grows so slowly it may never become life-threatening, many of these men, particularly older men, may die of other causes before the prostate cancer causes problems. But in some men, the cancer will spread beyond the prostate without treatment. Then it may no longer be curable.

As a result, there has been a long-running debate in the medical community about the value of treatment to destroy cancer cells vs. active surveillance, also known as watchful waiting.

Watchful waiting consists of close monitoring with periodic digital rectal exams, yearly biopsies, and PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood tests.

New Prostate Cancer Test Shows Promise

Rising PSA levels can be a sign of prostate cancer spread in men with early cancer. But the PSA test can't distinguish between slow-growing and aggressive cancers, Veltri tells WebMD.

"Because of PSA, there is overdiagnosis and overtreatment of prostate cancer," he says.

The new blood test, known as the Prostate Health Index (PHI), measures three forms of PSA, including pro-PSA. Pro-PSA is a shortened molecule that is missing a few of the amino acids that make up the PSA protein. It's the most accurate form of PSA, Veltri says.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

man with doctor
Symptoms, risks, treatments
man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore
prostate cancer cells
What does this diagnosis mean?
doctor and male patient
Is it worth it?
cancer fighting foods
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Prostate Enlarged
Picture Of The Prostate
Prostate Cancer Quiz
screening tests for men
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Vitamin D