SCIENTISTS from the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital recently pioneered a test that diagnoses aggressive prostate cancer and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods.
This means that men don’t have to go to the hospital to provide a urine sample or have to undergo an uncomfortable rectal examination.
Instead, Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) test can be performed on samples collected at home.
According to the scientists, this is a breakthrough in cancer research b ecause “the first urination of the day provides biomarker levels from the prostate that are much higher and more consistent and the research team hopes that the introduction of the ‘At-Home Collection Kit’ could revolutionise diagnosis of the disease”.
They further note that patients “on active surveillance are monitored for disease progression, with men only having to go to hospital for a positive urine result.”
They say “ this is in contrast to the current situation where men are recalled to hospital every six to 12 months for painful and expensive b iopsies.”
Conventional prostate cancer tests include b lood tests, a physical ex amination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), an MRI scan or a b iopsy.
But the new PUR test looks at gene expression in urine samples and provides vital information ab out whether a cancer is aggressive or low risk.
The researchers say with the new test men won’t have to go for a digital rectal examination and this will b e less stressful and result in more patients going for the new test.
They say also that participants’ feedb ack shows the ‘at home test’ is preferab le to the conventional one. President John Magufuli’s government has on various occasions b een raising public awareness and encouraging Tanzanian men to go for early prostate cancer screening, detection and treatment.
Globally, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In 2018, it was reported to have occurred in 1.2 million men and caused 359,000 deaths, thanks to a report pub lished in Novemb er 2018 on “ Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 18 5 countries”.
WHO suggests that the disease occurs more in the developed world.
Other studies suggest that it has b een increasing also in the developing world, including Africa. So, prostate cancer, which is b asically the development of cancer in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system that produces the seminal fluid responsible for nourishing and transporting sperm, is a real health threat to men.
Risky factors include old age, a family history of the disease and race and about 99 per cent of cases occur in men of the age of or above 50 years, according to WHO.
The good news is that prostate cancer can be treated in the country, thanks to ongoing improvement in health services in the country.
What is still needed though is for men to develop a culture of regular checkup to detect and treat it b efore it becomes too late.
We are hopeful that Tanzania will explore this new PUR test to see how practical it is in our local context b ecause as the scientists put it is indeed a breakthrough in cancer research and will make more men go for test, know their prostate cancer status and be treated and cured on time. Kudos scientists for this b reakthrough in cancer research!