Last Updated: 2001-02-07 9:30:37 EST (Reuters Health) - A new type of prostate cancer screening test that relies on telomerase measurement may one day help eliminate unnecessary biopsies, according to the results of a pilot study by California researchers.
During the last year, scientists at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California, tested levels of telomerase in prostatic secretions from 20 men. In cancer cells, telomerase is the enzyme that keeps telomeres from shortening, ultimately resulting in a tumor.
"Whereas PSA is present in both benign and tumor tissue, telomerase is usually found only in tumor cells," City of Hope urologist Dr. Laura Corcitto pointed out in an interview with Reuters Health. About 90% of prostate tumors contain the enzyme, she said.
Comparing the telomerase assays with biopsy results, the researchers found that the results correlated in 18 of the 20 cases. The pilot study is ongoing and will eventually enroll 50 patients. If the results remain promising, a large study of a diverse population will be undertaken.
The results of the new test are available in about 30 minutes. "The test is potentially easy, quick, pain-free and inexpensive," Dr. Corcitto said. "In addition to diagnosis, it could also be used in place of PSA to monitor the progress of radiation therapy."
Dr. William Catalona, of Washington University in St. Louis, commented to Reuters Health that "the challenge will be to make sure the negatives are true negatives, which will require a long-term follow-up of at least 5 years."