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New blood test for prostate cancer diagnosis

New blood test for prostate cancer diagnosis

The novel epigenetic test combined with the prostate-specific antigen test can detect prostate cancer with 94 percent accuracy

The novel epigenetic test combined with the prostate-specific antigen test can detect prostate cancer with 94 percent accuracy

Prostate cancer, often detected at stage three or four, has left the medical fraternity in limbo. Experts say that there is a lack of awareness and standardised tests across the globe that can detect cancer with 100 percent accuracy. However, a new test developed for prostate cancer with 94 percent accuracy rate can help to detect the condition in more people. A group of researchers from Imperial College and University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, have come up with a Prostate Screening EpiSwitch (PSE) blood test, which is said to significantly improve cancer detection compared to that of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test alone.

Professor Dmitri Pchejetski and his team from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, UK, published a research paper in the journal Cancers saying that the PSA test, which is used across the world, does not have sufficient accuracy resulting in a number of unnecessary prostate biopsies in people without cancer and “false reassurance in some men with cancer”.

The researchers say that prostate cancer occurs in one out of six men during their lifetime. This form of cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among men in the Western world. These researchers and experts explained the reason to Happiest Health saying that the symptoms are not specific and it is often diagnosed late.

New discovery for prostate cancer diagnosis

Pchejetski et al. conducted a pilot study on 147 people with prostate cancer and administered the PSE test, which detected the condition with 94 percent accuracy. The researchers in the paper said that they have developed an epigenetic test for prostate cancer that detects cancer-specific chromosome conformations in the blood of the individual.

“In this study, we combined this epigenetic test with the PSA test and used two cohorts of people with cancer to determine whether the tests have better diagnostic accuracy when used together. Our results demonstrate that the new combined test (termed PSE test) allows a significant increase in prostate cancer detection compared to the PSA or epigenetic test alone. This new PSE test is accurate, rapid, minimally invasive and inexpensive. If successful in larger trials, it may significantly improve prostate cancer diagnosis,” stated the research.

The next stage of research will be to use the test on a group of people where the cancer status is unknown.

What experts say

Dr Raghunath S K, uro-oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru, who has performed more than 4,000 uro-oncological surgeries, said, “This test is a good test. However, there are a couple of tests available that need validation. We do not know about the 94 percent accuracy in the detection of high-risk or low-risk cancers. We need these intricacies. We know that PSA is not a good marker and any new markers like this are welcome. Moreover, it is cost-effective and when we adopt it in a new clinical practice, it should be easy and accurate.”

“The new tests should have a discriminatory ability. When it says negative, there should be no cancer at all and when it says positive, it should be accurate,” added Dr Raghunath.

Dr Shreyas Nagaraj, consultant, Urology and Uro Oncology, Cytecare Cancer Hospitals, Bengaluru, said, “The test looks promising and yes, we can avoid unnecessary biopsy. However, the test needs to be checked on a larger set of people to determine its accuracy. Once it comes into the market, cost plays a major role as a PSA test is already available between Rs 800 and 1200 in India. We even have a screening for prostate cancer at the price of Rs 999, which includes doctor consultation, blood test, ultrasound and uroflowmetry.”

“But despite these, a biopsy is the only test that gives accurate confirmation which is needed before starting the treatment,” he added.

Pchejetski told Happiest Health in an email conversation, “PSE is a combination of the PSA and chromosomal EpiSwitch tests. The chromosomal EpiSwitch test works by detecting abnormal chromosome configurations in blood. It is based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a similar technique used to detect COVID-19.”

“It is low cost compared to the MRI and biopsy which are currently used to confirm a prostate cancer diagnosis. The price of the test will decrease as the PCR technology is becoming cheaper. Ideally, these tests will be a part of the screening process in the future which will help to detect prostate cancer earlier. Larger trials are needed to confirm the applicability of this test for prostate cancer screening,” he added. 

People should be aware

Dr Raghunath said, “We have been seeing prostate cancer being mostly diagnosed at stages three and four and it accounts for 70 percent of the people. The reason is that we do not have awareness and regular screening is not happening. However, the situation has improved over the last two decades and PSA tests are being included in master health check-ups. As a result, 30 percent of the people are getting detected at stages one and two nowadays, which is potentially curable.”

He is also creating awareness through Global Prostate Cancer Foundation, which has now reached more than 15,000 families in India. This foundation includes cancer survivors, business tycoons, army personnel and bureaucrats of the country.


  • The PSE blood test, which is a combination of the novel epigenetic test and the PSA test, can detect prostate cancer with 94 percent accuracy.
  • However, further research is required and the test needs to be checked on a larger set of people where the cancer status is unknown.

Share Your Experience/Comments

2 Responses

  1. It is very good to know how much prostate is valuable and everyone should go for regular checks to avoid health issues outstanding article.

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