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Nanotechnology-Based Blood Test Could Revolutionize Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 06 Feb 2023
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Image: The new blood test will help optimize treatment for prostate cancer patients (Photo courtesy of Pexels)
Image: The new blood test will help optimize treatment for prostate cancer patients (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Cancer of the prostate is the most common cancer and second-leading cause of cancer death among men in the U.S. About 30% of post-surgical patients who get their prostate, a walnut-sized gland just below the bladder, removed can see an increase in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in their blood that can also indicate cancer recurrence. In case a remnant of the cancer is left behind in the prostate bed, where the prostate gland once was, focused radiation therapy can be used to cure the disease or delay progression, although that treatment comes with its own risks. In patients with microscopic cancer deposits spread outside their prostate area, focused radiation treatment cannot prevent disease progression. Even the most advanced imaging cannot detect these deposits, called micro-metastases. Now, researchers have developed a new nanotechnology-based test that can detect and profile prostate cancers - even in microscopic amounts. The “liquid biopsy” test can help patients avoid unnecessary treatment-related side effects and direct them instead to effective therapies that could extend their life span.

The test developed by investigators at Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles, CA, USA) isolates and characterizes extracellular vesicles, also called EVs, from blood samples. EVs are microscopic packets of protein and genetic material that are shed by cells. The EV Digital Scoring Assay can pull these EV packets from the blood with unprecedented efficiency and analyze them faster than any available test. For the study, the investigators tested blood samples from 40 patients with prostate cancer and found that the test could distinguish cancer localized to the prostate from cancer that had spread to other parts of the body. The investigators were also able to detect microscopic cancer deposits, or micro-metastases, using the EV test.

The test can be used to help patients who have their prostate gland removed and later see increased PSA levels in their blood, according to the investigators. The test could also be adapted to guide treatment as prostate cancer therapies become more targeted at the molecular level, ultimately extending patients’ lives. The investigators are now working to further refine the test so that it can be studied in greater detail.

“This research will revolutionize the liquid biopsy in prostate cancer,” said Edwin Posadas, MD, medical director of the Urologic Oncology Program and co-director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program in Cedars-Sinai Cancer. “The test is fast, minimally invasive and cost-effective, and opens up a new suite of tools that will help us optimize treatment and quality of life for prostate cancer patients.”

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